The best Mother’s Day gift I have ever received is my Nintendo DS Lite. It goes almost everywhere with me and I am always on the lookout for new and interesting games. Unlike my son, who loves skateboarding and racing games for his DSi, I prefer board games, word games, and brain games. In addition to my mini obsession with my DS, I also love to cook. Needless to say, I was definitely interested when they came out with America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking.
I will admit that I am a cookbook fanatic and my collection rivals the local library’s stock. I love to sit down with them on the first day, armed with Post-It note flags, and pick out all of my soon-to-be favorites. If we like the dish, the flag stays in place and if we don’t, into the trash it goes, so it doesn’t accidentally get made again. This is just the way I do things. It’s my system and I like it.
The first few times I saw this game/cookbook in the store, I picked it up and looked it over and debated buying it. I always put it back because $20 seemed like a lot to pay for 300 recipes. Besides, where would I put my flags? After several weeks of staring at it, I finally broke down and bought it, and I am so glad I did.
America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking is a digital cookbook that audibly walks you through recipes, calling out family members for individual tasks, while you talk to it to keep things running smoothly when you’re up to your elbows in ground meat. But this is not just a digital cookbook, my friend. This is the best thing to happen to cooking since the invention of the gas stove. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s still pretty darn cool.
When you first go into the game, you have several choices available to you. “Cooking A-Z” gives you several options stuffed with information, hints, tips, tricks, and how-to videos on everything from dicing onions to carving a chicken. “Settings” will lead you to the profile center, where you can create digital chefs for everyone in your family, choose ingredients you don’t prefer cooking with, and access a handy kitchen timer. The profiles are completely customizable with avatars, favorite colors, birthdays, and whether or not heat and knives can be used. You can also create a shopping list from the recipes you want to try.
After everybody is all set up, you can start perusing the recipes. You can search by keywords or ingredients, or choose to view them all. There are 16 appetizer recipes, 34 salads, 5 sandwiches, 23 soups, 36 vegetable dishes, 14 rice/grain/bean recipes, 21 pizza and pastas, 17 eggs/breakfast meals, 14 fish recipes, 65 meat dishes, 16 breads/quick breads, and 39 desserts. After checking them out, you can mark them “Try It” or leave yourself notes.
Another way to sort the recipes is by requirements such as main ingredient, cooking time, calorie count, course, and difficulty. For example, let’s say you want an easy recipe for dinner with seafood as the main ingredient. You want a cooking time of 30 minutes or less and a calorie count below 400. These specifications produce three recipes – Fast and Crunchy Baked Cod, Grilled Tuna with Lemon Glaze, and Steamed Lobsters. I love this feature and it’s so easy!
There’s even a calendar that shows upcoming events and you can tell it which days you want to make which recipes. The calendar also keeps track of when you cooked last and how many times each chef has participated. As you prepare more recipes, chefs move up in rank and unlock mini-games along the way!
I know that studies show that children who eat dinner with their families regularly get better grades in school. I know that cooking at home is usually cheaper than buying takeout. I also know that “video games” and “quality family time” don’t usually belong in the same sentence. But if you ask me, this is an awesome way to put it all together and make everybody happy.