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Cookbook Review: In Mary’s Kitchen

Tray of cinnamon apple buns with cream cheese frosting being applied

To know Mary Berg (even if it’s just on TV) is to love Mary Berg. As far as I’m concerned, the television host, author, cook and MasterChef Canada winner is Canada’s sweetheart. She carries a definite friendliness and approachability. Which is maybe why I felt so drawn to her latest cookbook, In Mary’s Kitchen: Stress-Free Recipes for Every Home Cook.  Packed with 100 new recipes, her third book is a feast for the eyes with gorgeous photography, a sturdy spine that stays cracked open on the counter, excellent instructions and introductions to ease you into each recipe. I also enjoyed that she called upon specialty ingredients that often languish in cupboards with extra tips to ensure those pantry players can get used up and not go to waste

I obviously wanted to test out and write about every single recipe, but below are a few that were winners in my house. Keep reading for unfussy, busy-weeknight-approved and very delicious dishes you’ll want to hit repeat on. 

Cover of mary berg's latest cookbook, in mary's kitchen

Freeze & Fry Breakfast Sausage, page 16 
Can I just say that it’s a revelation to have these in the freezer for a quick and protein-rich breakfast and lunch? I loved that they combined sweet, herby and smoky together. When I see that my supply is dwindling, I (happily) prioritize making more. 

Apple Cinnamon Biscuit Buns, page 31
When testing these recipes, apple season happened to be in full swing. These biscuits — which are cinnamon-roll adjacent — helped me use up my bounty and yielded a finished product that was really quite delicious and perfect for a snack, dessert or accompanying breakfast. It’s important to note that these are not a super fast bake or production, but well worth the effort. The dough is slightly stiff which makes it work around the chunky filling as you roll it. It might be a good recipe assist for kids wanting to work on their culinary skills. Get the recipe: Apple Cinnamon Biscuit Buns

Romaine & Endive Salad with Anchovy Lemon Dressing, page 59 
Talk about a hit of umami with your greens. This salad is crunchy and salty and has all the best textures and bite thanks to crispy breadcrumbs, briny capers, cheese, veg and the tang of the lemon dressing. What’s neat is that Mary also gives a vegan version that subs the anchovy and cheese so everyone can enjoy this fresh flavour bomb. 

Curried Lentil Stuffed Squash, page 82 
Something I learned with this recipe is that not all lentils cook the same. Of course, Mary knew this and added helpful tips on how much more or less time is needed to cook different types of lentils. The small squashes are jam-packed with toothsome and flavourful additions like dried apricot, apple, walnuts and herb, making it a great balance of sweet, salty, crunchy and smooth. It was absolutely delicious for a weeknight warmup but could also easily sub in for a main course at celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas

Miso Butter Corn, page 101
Admittedly, this recipe stumped me as much as it intrigued me. Never had I ever combined miso with corn and then pasta. But as expected, it turned out to be a delicious mash-up of the most epic variety. Mary really knows how to up the ante and in this recipe she advised cooking the panko toping in a pan that is too big so can use the same pan to cook the sauce. Love a dish-saving hack. It’s a little thing, but it shows that Mary really gets the plight of home cooks and the struggle of not only coming up with a meal on a busy night, but facing a stack of dishes, too. 

Lemony Shrimp with White Beans and Garlic Toast, page 125
Did you know that there are three letters you need to watch for when you cook shrimp? Well, neither did I. Turns out that uncooked shrimp hold a loose ‘U’ shape. Perfectly cooked shrimp form a ‘C’ shape and if you end up with an ‘O’ you’ve ‘O’vercooked’ them! With that lesson in tow, I got to cooking and yielded a creamy and hearty dish that utilizes pantry and fridge staples and is satisfyingly quick. 

Sheet Pan Souvlaki, page 143
Sheet pan dinners are truly lifesavers and this recipe is right up there with the best of them. You can sub chicken for pork and add other Greek-aligned ingredients like potatoes, olives, feta and a surprise appearance from sun dried tomatoes. Quick, easy, delicious. Five stars. 

Creamy Harissa Lamb Meatballs, page 167
If lamb isn’t your thing, Mary advises to sub ground turkey, chicken or pork, but honestly, this sauce is so good you could sub in a shoe and it would still knock your socks off. Harissa paste is now available in almost every grocery store and in my humble home cook opinion, it’s worthwhile adding to roasted potatoes, cauliflower and even carrots. But back to this recipe, Mary notes that yogurt can temper the heat of the harissa and it’s a critical step in this recipes to tone down the spice but not the flavour. Get the recipe: Creamy Harissa Lamb Meatballs

My Dream Chocolate Chip Cookie, page 190
Does the world need another chocolate chip cookie recipe? Well, it’s Mary’s dream and it is a rather delightful one with added nutty dimension courtesy of browned butter. It’s certainly more cake-like than the traditional crispy-edged, chewy-centred cookie that I’m used to, but that isn’t a bad thing. Anyway, who could be upset at fluffy texture? 

Spiced Apple Cheesecake, page 235
Remember, I was reviewing during apple season so here’s apple recipe number two. 
I’ve had many a cheesecake fail in my life, but I learned some valuable lessons with this recipe. The addition of cornstarch to the batter seemed to be the trick that created a crack-free cheesecake. While the spiced apple topping was good, I wouldn’t hesitate to have this cheesecake recipe as my go-to, changing up the toppings with the seasons. Of course, apples in the fall, but think roasted strawberries in June and cherries or raspberries in the heat of summer. The cheesecake possibilities are endless. Get the recipe: Spiced Apple Cheesecake

Excerpted from In Mary’s Kitchen by Mary Berg. Copyright © 2023 Mary Berg. Photographs by Lauren Vandenbrook. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.




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