Mug Meals by Dina Cheney

Mug meals ended up being very different from what I originally thought: what seemed like a book for students or those with busy schedules is actually more useful to me as a means of controlling/refreshing leftovers as well as portion control. That’s because so many of the recipes rely on precooked ingredients and prior preparation. Yes, mixing and then throwing in the microwave takes only minutes – but so many items do need to be precooked beforehand.

The book breaks down as follows: Mug Magic (recipe pointers, how to use the book, cooking techniques, pantry staples, recommended pantry, recommended brands); Breakst; Lunch & Dinner;  Dessert, index, measurement charts.

Recipes are common staples – nothing too exotic or very few difficult-to-find ingredients. From Warm cherry pomegranate soup to coconut snowball truffles, eggs florentine to Chinese brown rice salad with edamame, chicken and pineapple burrito to black beans with feta and tomatoes.

As noted above, quite a few of the recipes require advance preparation.  So this isn’t a book for a student armed only with a microwave. Rice, eggs, noodles, meat, etc. all need to be prepared in advance. So you will need some sort of kitchen and place to store cooked food well in advance of making the recipe.

That said, for me, I found this book to be a great resource for quick meals using leftovers. E.g., when I cook up a meal for dinner, I set aside some of the cooked ingredients (freeze or refrigerate) for quick lunches or breakfast the next day. It means I can have a variety of meals at all times of the day since the use of some precooked ingredients make the recipes 5 minute specials to cook. And although a recipe may only need 1/4 of a can of e.g., lentils, the index at the back means I can look up something different to make for lunch the next day using the rest of the can.  Also nice, I can make staples the night before and freeze or refrigerate – then make up the mug in the morning and microwave it at work for a quick and great meal. I was surprised at how cost effective (and even healthy) so many of these meals ended up being. Add in that if I have meat expiring in the fridge, I can cook it up and have it ready the next day – without having to throw away the meat that night.

I also like that a mug really constrains the size. It helps me respect portions and use portion control to watch my weight and ensure healthier meals. Many of the recipes include alternatives or ways to jazz up or change recipes to suit all tastes. So if you don’t like one ingredient, it is easy to substitute. And you can alternate healthier ingredients as needed.

The presentation is lovely – easy to read and follow with paragraphs for steps and ingredients in bold face and easy to distinguish. It is also very colorful in reds and greens. Clean, lovely, not too busy, but enticing. Of note, though, I give one star less because there are far too photographs. Since photographs are expensive to print, I really wish books like these would include a website where an image of every item can be seen.  It’s hard to picture how several of these would look before you cook them – and you don’t know if that’s how they are supposed to look afterwards.

In all, a surprisingly useful book but definitely not in the ways I had expected.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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