America’s Test Kitchen

Spending time in the kitchen is something I both love and dread. Love because I enjoy making good food for my friends and family. Dread due to the inevitable piles of dishes that will be left to clean up, and I’m usually the one doing that, too. There is an entire row of cookbooks in our home covering a wide range of cuisines. We leave shopping lists stuck to our refrigerator and our kitchen table doubles as a prep table and cookbook stand. The kitchen in our apartment is rather small, not much counter space is available, which means its hard for two people to work together.

Enter America’s Test Kitchen the “game”. Not exactly a game but used on the Nintendo DS family of systems, America’s Test Kitchen is an interactive cookbook and kitchen helper, enabling you to make healthy dinners for yourself and your loved ones, with and without their help. It boasts 300 recipes from appetizers to desserts, features video tutorials and walks you step by step through creating each one.

America’s Test Kitchen features a very comprehensive glossary as well. In Cooking A-Z you can learn more about cuts of meat, how to tell when fruits and veggies are ripe, and even which utensils you should have in your arsenal. And if you aren’t sure how to trim asparagus or seed tomatoes, well you can find out how to do that here, too.

Let’s Get Cooking takes you straight to the meat and potatoes of this software. If you have food allergies or just don’t like certain foods, I recommend starting out here with the Excluded Ingredients option. Marking which ingredients you don’t want to use will put Xs on the recipes containing them so you know which ones to avoid. I have a mushroom allergy which I found was super helpful in narrowing down my options early on. Now you are ready to browse through all recipes that meet your dining requirements.

Now, you can’t review the software if you don’t make something from the recipe index. I decided to make Chicken Piccata, primarily because I was craving it, but it was also a dish that was easy enough to do in my tiny apartment kitchen. Before starting, I used the ingredient list to see what I needed to pick up from the store, and got out the utensils I would be using for preparation.

The best thing about America’s Test Kitchen is also the only gripe I had while making my entree. You can continue or return to the previous step by speaking clearly enough into the DS microphone. This is great for when your hands are covered in goop and you want to wash your hands while listening to the next step. The downside is that the game kept thinking that I was talking to it, even when I was just closing the fridge door. It would skip ahead on me and keep asking me to repeat myself when I said nothing. It also registered my husband talking to me as receiving commands. So whenever my hands where clean I would listen to the next step then close the DS lid. I can foresee that being a major issue if you were to have a group in the kitchen you or using two systems to make your meal.

Once I completed making the Chicken Picata I was given the chance to stamp my efforts with either a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. Based on how the dish turned out and the ease of cooking I rated it with a Bronze “Made It!” stamp. I was also able to make a note for the recipe at this point, where I decided to write “Use less lemon juice” in case I made it again.

Even though I ran into issues with the voice commands with America’s Test Kitchen, I will use it again. There are some delicious looking recipes that I want to try out, and when I have a larger kitchen to work with I plan on using the “Send It” function to have my husband help me make meals.

(Reviewed for GamingAngels – Apr 22, 2010)

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