The Duluth Grill Cook Book II, written by Robert Lillegard, is an attractive hard-bound cookbook published in 2016 and featuring 100 recipes that I would describe as healthy comfort food made from scratch – right up my alley! The majority of the recipes feature a gorgeous photo below (or next to) the recipe, often spilling over onto two pages and making for a big, luscious image of the completed dish. Many of the recipes included in the book are either Vegetarian, Vegan, and/or Gluten-Free, and are clearly labelled as such – important for people on special diets or with certain health concerns. Some of the recipes are marked as “Fast and Easy” and there is also a section of “Three-Day Meal Plans” to help you plan your day. This is the second cookbook from The Duluth Grill, which is a family-owned restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota. In addition to the recipes, this book is interspersed with some interesting stories relating to the food, the restaurant, and the people behind it (I liked the amusing little story about the “visitors from the future”).
Recipes are divided into chapters including Condiments & Sauces; Beverages; Breakfast; Soups and Starters; Sides; “Big Hearty Entrees”; and Desserts – they were all tested by home cooks to make sure every recipe included in the book is working, usable and easy. Looking over the book, I found many interesting, yummy looking recipes that I wanted to try out and selected several to prepare and “taste test” for this review. Here’s the scoop on what I made:
— This is a simple recipe made with mostly pantry staples I already had on hand (yay!) – the only ingredient I didn’t already have in my kitchen was the can of Pumpkin Puree. Very easy to prepare batter, frosting was also very simple to prepare. The frosting called for 3 cups of powdered sugar – I used less than 2 1/2 cups (mainly to keep the amount of sugar in the dessert down) and thought it was perfect in consistency and “spreadability” and still tasted very, very sweet! I thought the texture of these bars was actually more like that of a “tea cake” rather than a bar and found these to be exceptionally good. Very light and moist with the unique touch of nutmeg in the frosting, this recipe makes for a very scrumptious treat – or as my grandma used to say when tasting a really delicious goodie: absolutely divine!
Cuban Black Beans
— Another dish that was very easy to make. The recipe called for 4 cups of “cooked black beans” and I prepared my own basic cooked beans from scratch using dried black beans, which I feel is the healthiest way to go. I used a little more onion and garlic than the recipe called for (I always do that, we LOVE garlic!) and went with the whole 4 ounce can of diced green chiles that I had. In the cooking instructions for this recipe, it didn’t say how long to heat the onions and garlic in oil (I assumed until the onions were softened but this lack of instruction could possibly be slightly confusing for a beginner cook). These beans are baked and then, before serving, topped with fresh diced pineapple and chopped cilantro. They came out really good – yum.
— Chicken breasts baked in a lemon and caper cream sauce – another easy to make recipe. This came out good too, though I would have liked it with a stronger tang of “lemon” flavor and would probably think about adding a bit more lemon juice to the sauce.
Bacon-Blue Cheese Coleslaw
— This recipe was one of the first that caught my eye when looking through this cookbook. A side dish salad that is sort of a cross between a traditional cabbage/carrot coleslaw and a Wedge Salad (bacon and blue cheese) – how cool! Also very cool – this was very easy to prepare! The recipe called for 1/3 cup of finely chopped cooked bacon and I used four bacon slices, which came out just about right. The amount of bacon fat that came off of the four strips was a little less than the called-for “1/3 cup bacon fat” but it still seemed like plenty enough. The recipe calls for 1/3 lb. shredded carrots and I used three carrots for that, which seemed right for the amount of cabbage. And the results? Yum, yum, yum. We thought this coleslaw was a really excellent, “restaurant quality” side dish – loved it.
— Simple to make these baked-from-scratch Scones – this called for using your choice of filler (fruit, chocolate chips, and/or nuts) and I chose to use a berry combination of fresh blueberries and strawberries. I could tell these were going to be real good even as they were just going into the oven to bake (and, well, I did taste the raw dough, which I always do, to tell if all is going as it should – I guess this is a baking no-no, but I’ve done that since I was a kid when I loved to eat the unbaked “chocolate chip cookie dough” left in the bowl. I’m not recommending anyone else do this though!), and I was right – oh so yummy!
A Few Final Thoughts and “Most Wanted List” of Recipes to Try Next!
All in all, I found the recipes in this book to be both creative and great tasting, the instructions easy to read and follow, the ingredients mostly easy to find. Here are some more recipes from the book that are calling my name: Blueberry Muffins, Kale & White Bean Soup, Italian Sausage (homemade with ground pork and 11 spices!), Thai Pizza, Beef & Pork Chili, Swedish Meatballs, Layered Carrot Cake, Tarragon Olive Oil Ice Cream. So many interesting dishes I would love to make. Plus, I really appreciate the chapter of “Condiments and Sauces”, featuring a nice selection of useful recipes including Garlic Spread, Chutney, Green Chile Salsa, Curry Sauce, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, Pork Rub, Seasoned Salt, Apple Butter, and lots more – all homemade. I feel it’s always best and most healthy to eat as much as possible that is “real” food made from pure, fresh ingredients. I love the great selection and variety of flavorful recipes featured in this book that helps me do just that!
For more information on the Duluth Grill Cookbook as well as purchasing information, visit the Duluth Grill Restaurant website here.