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Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag
Our award-winning series Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag premiered in September 2008 and just completed a fourth season in 2012. In it, we conduct tests of cookbooks and kitchen products from the perspective of the average consumer. And remember, we're not trained chefs!
Our main goal: to see if the chosen cookbook delivers on its promises as we try to recreate the servings in the photographs and produce delicious, or at least edible, meals.
We start by reading our chosen cookbook cover-to-cover and trying out as many of the recipes as we can (aside from the ones we'll test on the show) in the weeks before we tape the episode. Then we set a date and invite a real gourmet chef over to taste test our results. Talk about high pressure!
We also test various kitchen tools and ingredients we'll need for our menus, with help from both experts and everyday people. Once we've figured out the best product for the job, we put it to use in our test kitchen on the big cooking day.
Then, based on our experience working with the cookbook before the cook day, the feedback from our guest chef-judge on cook day, and the final results we taste on the plate, we decide whether the cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.
Grocery Bag FAQS
- How do you evaluate cookbooks?
- Whose house do you film in?
- What's your favourite cookbook? (video)
- How do you choose cookbooks & menus for the show?
- How do you decide which recipes to use? (video)
- Which country's cuisine do you like best? (video)
- Which celebrity do you most want to cook for? (video)
- What do you do with all the leftovers? (video)
- Is it really you two as kids in the show intro? (video)
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Thanks for watching, everyone!
Anna & Kristina
(P.S. A note to our very special USA viewers: OWN has taken us off their USA schedule, but we're working hard on finding new options to bring all our shows to the USA. Stay tuned for details!)
Season 4 (Open)
First written in 1958, the Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes is a compilation of recipes from thousands of contributors across the province. We set off to beautiful Newfoundland for a fishing, hunting, and cooking adventure, in which we encounter screech, scoff, and a lot of east coast pride. Can we west coasters pull off a meal to satisfy a Newfoundland-born-and-raised chef?
Full of simple fresh recipes dedicated to friends and family everywhere, author Shelley Adams says you don’t have to be a trained chef to make healthy, delicious and fabulous food. Can we create summer sizzle or will storm clouds move in to spoil our party?
Professional athlete-turned-firefighter, Rip Esselstyn wants to save lives in more ways than one. In his New York Times best-selling book, Engine 2 Diet, he claims that anyone can lower their cholesterol and drop the pounds in just twenty-eight days. Eat more and lose more? This cookbook has some big promises, and we’re just the people to test it out.
The Family Meal is a tradition among restaurants whereby the cook staff makes a meal for all staff before the restaurant opens. El Bulli, where this cookbook comes from, was rated as the best restaurant in the entire world. We tackle a small menu for a “family” of 75 savvy diners. Will it be a family meal or a family feud?
Whether for health or as a trend, gluten-free eating appears to be here to stay. But finding delicious gluten-free recipes isn’t easy. With everything from cinnamon buns to ravioli, the authors of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking claim they’re bringing back the joy of eating with 275 gluten-free recipes so good, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Grammy-winning singer Trisha Yearwood has compiled a second book of what she calls easy-to- prepare, southern-style recipes. This is definitely not gourmet fare. It’s comfort food, with a side of fries. She makes no apology for the fact that these recipes are high in sugar and processed foods, so the question is: will this book make us a little more country, or have us singing the blues?
A melting pot of the native foods of the Berbers, with the seasonings influenced by Arab, Spanish, Turkish and French cuisines, The New Moroccan takes us way out of our comfort zone, to the dazzling and chaotic Marrakech, for an authentic cookbook test!
Who doesn’t love pizza? We certainly do. From its humble beginnings as street food in Italy, pizza has become the number one dinner choice in North America, though it’s rarely made at home. My Pizza author Jim Lahey claims his recipes and techniques allow home cooks with regular ovens to make pizzas with professional results. We’ll just see about that!
Jacques Pépin is one of the great chefs of our lifetime. He is a pioneer and an icon. With a career that spans over 60 years, it’s no surprise that a cookbook of favourites includes over 700 recipes, and a DVD with step-by-step instruction on various techniques. Will it be enough for us to create a meal to impress a chef?
We take on one of the big boys of Italian cooking: Mario Batali. His 3-star restaurant, Babbo, is hailed for dishing out some of the most inspired and acclaimed Italian food in North America. His cookbook presents dishes as served in the restaurant. Will these recipes deliver us a home cooked meal?
Going beyond the traditional hot dog cart, food trucks now serve up all kinds of unique gourmet creations, truly making them a culinary category all their own. We step out of the kitchen and into the streets to cook some “food on the run”. This cookbook is filled with recipes from some of the most unique food trucks from New York to Hawaii. Can this cookbook deliver good food fast?
This cookbook seems like it was made just for us! From cakes to cookies, brownies to mousse, it’s got everything a chocolate lover could hope for. In fact, it claims to have recipes that will satisfy any chocolate craving. We’ll see about that!
From the editors of Glamour Magazine comes a provocatively titled cookbook, “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know – Engagement chicken and 99 other fabulous dishes to get you everything you want in life.” The entire cookbook is based on the claim that the recipe for Engagement Chicken has actually led to many, many marriage proposals. So of course, being who we are, we had to test it!
Season 3 (Open)
You wanna hate her, but she’s just so darn nice! Sure, Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow can act and sing, but can she write a cookbook? Our final Grocery Bag season 3 episode takes a look at Gwyneth’s brand new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter” to see if we can finally find something to dislike about this Hollywood darling. (Don’t worry, we’ll be nice.)
The A&K Test Kitchen goes paper-free as we test Jamie Oliver’s digital app: 20-minute meals. How will an interactive application compare to a traditional cookbook? Can we really pull off these dishes in 20-minutes? (Do smart phones come in waterproof?)
Nourish is the companion cookbook to the world famous Canyon Ranch spa in the US, known not only for its treatments, but also for its delicious food. This is not a diet cookbook, nor is it a vegetarian cookbook. Rather, it celebrates big flavours, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes, and promises “indulgently healthy cuisine”. Healthy and delicious? We’ll see about that!
Originally published in 1940, this collection of recipes from Hollywood celebrities, artists, and socialites, has recently been re-published in all its retro charm. You’ll find recipes from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, and Noel Coward, along with such antiquated offerings as pigeon pie, liver burgers, and jellied consommé with caviar. Can these recipes deliver in the 21st century A&K Test Kitchen?
New York’s Les Halles is the French brasserie where Anthony Bourdain served as executive chef before becoming a celebrity, bestselling author and TV host. This cookbook reads like Bourdain is standing right there looking over your shoulder, telling you what and what not to do. Time to invite another bad boy chef into the A&K Test Kitchen!
Izakayas are a major cultural and social force in Japan, where people gather to share laughter, drinks and small plates of delicious food. This cookbook claims to be the first written in English to peel back the curtain on these boisterous Japanese pubs, which are now popping up all over North America. Can we pull off these tasty yet intricate dishes in the A&K Test Kitchen?
The Ski House Cookbook features 125 recipes including classic party fare like fondues dips and hot drinks, as well as hearty dishes like pasta, stew and roasted meats. The authors promise it won’t snow you under with long prep times, and that means less time in the kitchen and more time on the slopes. We like that part! But will this cookbook deliver on taste?
Feels like a textbook, looks like a coffee table book, and reads like a love letter to Southern Italian food and wine. A16: Food + Wine is written by the executive chef and wine director of a San Francisco restaurant of the same name. The book promises beguilingly rustic and approachable recipes. Will we be able to recreate the amazing restaurant dishes in the A & K Test Kitchen?
In this cookbook, ratio is the proportion of one ingredient to another. Providing the simple ratios behind basic dishes in everyday cooking, author Michael Ruhlman claims that by knowing a few ratios, you have thousands of recipes at your fingertips. If it’s that simple, then you only need one book on the shelf, right? Or wrong…
Dedicated to meat, this cookbook is definitely much more than just a collection of steak and burger recipes. The River Cottage Meat Book covers responsible animal husbandry, the artistry of butchering, and understanding what eating meat means to our world. Can we create a carnivore’s delight or will it be an awful pile of offal?
As a celebrity chef, Bobby Flay has shown the world that Southwestern food is a complex cuisine of North and South American flavours. For those of us who can’t get to Bobby Flay’s restaurants, his cookbook offers 150 of his famous recipes. Smoky, earthy, fruity, and spicy, Bobby Flay is big on bold flavours. Can this cookbook help a couple of Pacific Northwesterners put on a delicious Southwestern spread?
According to author Judith Jones, one doesn’t have to be the loneliest number at the dinner table. In fact, it can be downright decadent. An accomplished chef herself, Jones has worked with some of the world’s greatest chefs, including James Beard and Julia Child. Can this cookbook really make cooking for one pleasurable?
A grand-dame of British culinary royalty, Marguerite Patten has penned over 170 books, countless articles, and was one of the very first TV chefs in the world. Her work is all about being authentic, so we head to a castle in the Yorkshire countryside to put Best British Dishes to the A & K test!
Time for the world, and Anna, to experience Croatian cooking! We’re testing a book written by two Croatian-born Canadians looking for a taste of home. Featuring traditional and regional favourites, this cookbook is a melting pot of dishes, with over 200 recipes with culinary influences from all over Europe. And it’s one of the only Croatian cookbooks published in English.
We go on a culinary journey to explore traditional methods for gathering and preparing the food of Canada’s pacific northwest indigenous people. “Where People Feast” is one of the only indigenous cookbooks on the market, in fact, taking the bounty of the land and sea for inspiration. It’s a cookbook filled with tradition. Will it stand up in the A & K Test Lab?
We’re getting back to the table with a cookbook that encourages families to eat dinner together at least three times a week. And when Gordon Ramsay tells you to do something you’d better listen up! Will his cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
The Williams-Sonoma Christmas Entertaining cookbook also presents itself as a decorating and planning guidebook, promising to have you entertaining your guests with style and ease. Will it be our go-to holiday guide, or only as good as last year’s fruitcake?
Written by two sisters, “Bite Me” is full of cheeky titles, pop culture lists, and trivia tidbits. Oh, and some comfort food recipes too, ranging from meatloaf to pasta to chocolate cake. Will this cookbook live up to its claims and earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
When you think Greek food, you think big family, big fun, and big flavor. But can authentic Mediterranean magic be captured by one cookbook? Written and photographed by three sisters who grew up in Toronto’s Greek Town and spent their summers in Greece (no professional chefs here), this cookbook is something of a love letter to their native cuisine. Will it expand our horizons on traditional Greek food?
This collection of recipes by the esteemed French chef Alain Ducasse is like a text book of sugar. But these are not the desserts that mom used to make. We find out whether this cookbook can help the average chef create these sweet works of art, or if we should leave the high-end treats to the professionals.
These days, vegetarian cooking isn’t a new concept. But in 1977, The Moosewood Cookbook was the first of its kind, celebrating new ways to eat meat-free and becoming one of the top-selling cookbooks of all time. This updated version includes some colour photos and 25 new recipes. We’re testing whether these once-exotic dishes can stand up to today’s diverse vegetarian options.
To most people, southern cooking means mouth-watering fried chicken, cheesy grits, and savory gravy. “Bon Appetit, Y’all” takes these classics and adds a French twist. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval? We head south, to Savannah, Georgia to find out!
Part cookbook and part diet guide, “Skinnygirl Dish” is a best seller written by one of the Real Housewives of New York City, Bethanny Frankel. Definitely not aimed at the seasoned chef, this cookbook speaks to women who are intimidated by their kitchen, and who want comfort food without the calories. We find out if it really delivers on its promise.
The tenth edition of NY Times food columnist Mark Bittman’s cookbook “How To Cook Everything” is billed as the ultimate cookbook. That’s a pretty big claim, but it’s a pretty big book! The cover states: “2000 simple recipes for great food.” Simple? Great? Let’s find out if it’s true.
We both love a good road trip, and stopping at a roadside diner is half the fun. So we took Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives for a test drive to see if we could capture that great mom-and-pop comfort food in our own test kitchen. Will this guide to “an all-American road trip…with recipes” earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
It took ten years for the head of Martha Stewart’s food division to write it, but Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen claims to include quintessential Jamaican recipes; the kind passed down through generations, and even some forgotten in modern culture. We turn up the heat to see if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.
Season 2 (Open)
Born in France, Chef Daniel Boulud is world-renowned for combining fine American ingredients with European tradition to create contemporary French cuisine. Featuring 75 recipes from his own restaurants, this cookbook promises to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires this highly creative chef. Will it inspire greatness in our own kitchen?
With over 70 recipes, A Good Catch includes everything from wild salmon to octopus. Author Jill Lambert created the cookbook after learning many of her favourite fish were on the Ocean Wise “avoid” list. The book’s main message is about choosing local, fresh, and most importantly, sustainable seafood. But will recipes featuring geoduck and raw oysters get the best of us?
An haute take on one of America’s most traditional cuisines, this cookbook full of Texas Ranch recipes isn’t just about ribs and beans. A Cowboy in the Kitchen promises American cooking at its kick-off-your-boots-and-get-down-to-business greatest. So will it live up to those claims in our cookbook test and earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
Cooking magazines can be an enticing alternative to a book, especially when you’re standing at the checkout counter looking at those appetizing cover shots. We test a few monthly issues of Gourmet Magazine to see if it can deliver on its promise: to continually offer something new to readers and produce gourmet results. All those slick glossy beautiful photographs can make many drool over the magazine. But are its recipes beyond armchair chefs like us?
Food can be a lot more than just sustenance; it can be a total sensory experience. Welcome to the world of Alinea, where food meets art meets science. The author claims that the cookbook gives a sneak peak into the restaurant and techniques used, so that even the average chef can try some of these fanciful creations at home. We beg to differ!
Weighing in at over 400 pages, this cookbook is jam-packed full of traditional Chinese recipes and it also has lots of information on the historical importance of food in Chinese culture. We find out if this cookbook can teach a couple of westerners to cook like an authentic Chinese chef.
Forget chips and dip! This book full of hors d’oeuvres could be the ticket for impressive bite-sized appetizers…or a lot of fiddly work for a bunch of bland yet glamorously-named mini meals. Jennifer Joyce promises the perfect recipes for unfussy and exceptional dishes, whether you’re hosting a casual cocktail party or a sophisticated soiree. We put her promise to the test. See if Small Bites earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.
Author Peter Berley says he’ll never treat vegetarians as an afterthought again. But instead of cooking separate dishes, Chef Berley has created ‘convertible dishes’, where you make the same basic preparations and then use half for a meat dish and the other half for a meat alternative. We’re excited to put this concept to the test. Find out if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.
Whether you’re throwing a ruckus St. Patty’s Day bash or a serene Mother’s Day brunch, authors Ryan Jennings and David Steel say they will give you all the tools you need to plan thirty themed soirees in their cookbook ‘Entertaining with Booze’. We test out the recipes, and the concept, to find out if it really is an entertaining ‘bible’ as promised.
Ina Garten prides herself on serving up recipes that make cooking and entertaining a breeze. Back to Basics contains over a hundred new recipes that are supposedly easy to follow and made up of easy to find ingredients. We give it a whirl to see if this cookbook delivers an A & K Stamp of Approval.
From the woman who wrote her master’s thesis on the effects of sifting on the quality of yellow cake, The Cake Bible is a scientific exploration behind melting chocolate, preheating ovens, the merits of sifting (or not), and more. With very precise, detailed instructions, we find out if this book should be left to the pros.
In 1975, a group of women who regularly played Bridge together decided they should publish a book of their recipes popular with friends and family. The Best of the Best and More is a collection of favourites from their previous 6 books. They promise simple recipes with gourmet results, but can recipes with names like ‘A Christmas Morning Wife-Saver’ and ‘Classy Chicken’ really appeal to today’s modern chefs?
Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. These days, fat is a bad word, but author Jennifer McLagan is on a mission to convince people that it’s actually good. We dive into this mouthwatering book with both excitement and a little apprehension. Will it earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
This cookbook by Good Housekeeping promises a diverse collection of meatless dishes, from soups, stews, dinners, lunches, salads, and more, all balanced, nourishing, and tasty enough to please the whole family. As non-vegetarians, we find out how pleasing these recipes really are.
In his cookbook, New York native Arthur Schwartz offers an authentic yet thoughtfully-updated collection of hundreds of traditional Jewish recipes, from appetizers like gefilte fish, to classics like cholent and blintzes. His recipe instructions are brief, however. Possibly a little too brief for the inexperienced chef? We find out.
From the authors of another stinky favourite called Onions, Onions, Onions, this cookbook promises over 200 exceptional, garlic-infused recipes, from breakfast to main courses to desserts, as well as lore and health information about this pungent relative of the lily. Time to put it to the A & K Test!
Australian restaurateur David Thompson’s 637-page tome discusses the history of Thailand, its cuisine and people, and the robustly-flavoured ingredients. The cookbook promises straightforward, authentic Thai meals. We go on a culinary adventure to find out if the recipes are straightforward enough for a couple of regular at-home chefs like us.
Selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important and influential books of the twentieth century, Joy of Cooking has taught tens of millions of people to cook, fed and delighted millions beyond that, answered countless kitchen and food questions, and averted many a cooking crisis. We take the 75th edition into the A&K Test Kitchen to make sure it holds up its promises.
From the editors of O Magazine comes this 75-recipe collection that promises something to satisfy everyone. From simple treats to luxurious yet economical meals to comfort food, this cookbook has some lofty goals, and we find out if it stands up to our cooking day test.
Mother of three, Jessica Seinfeld packed this cookbook with kid-friendly recipes to help parents who struggle to feed their kids nutritious and balanced meals. We find out whether her recipes, filled with hidden veggies, can pass a taste test with a group of picky young eaters.
Called the Queen of Food Porn because of her flirtatious way of presenting things, Nigella Lawson has written four cookbooks that have sold over three million copies around the world. In Nigella Express, she promises fast, comforting and tasty food that is good enough to serve at a dinner party. We find out if this cookbook delivers on that promise.
Rick Bayless has two of the highest-rated Mexican restaurants in all of North America, and is also the host of a long-running TV series. Filled with translations of authentic Mexican dishes, Mexican Kitchen starts with 15 different sauces Bayless calls the cornerstones of Mexican cuisine. We find out how easy, or hard, it is to Mexican-ize our cooking skills.
First published over 20 years ago, this fourth edition of Campground Cookery is not just about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. With over 270 recipes, this book promises to take fine cuisine into the outdoors. We find out if this cookbook can make a couple of city girls like us into gourmet campfire chefs.
The French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley is considered by many one of the best restaurants in North America. Owner and chef, Thomas Keller, has put some of his favourite recipes into The French Laundry Cookbook. We find out if typical home chefs like us can pull off these meticulous and involved 4-star recipes. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?
Marcella Hazan is an award-winning cookbook author and is widely considered a leading influence of Italian cuisine in North America. This cookbook has almost 500 recipes and is allegedly able to turn any literate being into an Italian cook. We’re up for that, so we test it on Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag to find out if it’s true.
In this cookbook, the editors claim they have done the impossible: made tasty, low-fat versions of high-fat recipes like cheesecake, caesar salad, and fettuccine alfredo. Does it sound too good to be true? We find out!
Season 1 (Open)
Australian chef Donna Hay began her career as a food writer and food stylist at 19. She became the food editor at Marie Claire by 25. She has now sold more than 3 million books worldwide and writes food articles that are published regularly in Australian newspapers. We find out whether her cookbook’s new food fast promise holds up under pressure.
The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook has six hundred Christmas recipes. That’s a lot of Christmases. We try a range of recipes from every element of holiday entertaining – appetizers to cocktails to main courses to desserts – to find out if everyday people like us can follow her cookbook instructions to achieve Martha-level perfection.
Giada De Laurentiis had a cooking show for many years, but this is her first cookbook, and it’s actually a New York Times bestseller. It promises to show you how to cook delicious, beautiful Italian food with minimum fuss and maximum flavour. We find out if it really is that fast and easy for everyday cooking.
We put our libidos on the line to try out some steamy, “aphrodisiac” recipes. While the book itself appears quite sexy at first glance, we find out if the recipes really measure up to its promise to introduce sensual foods to the love-hungry public.
Steve Raichlen’s How to Grill has over 500 easy-to-make recipes from around the world. Virtually a textbook on everything you need to know about using a barbeque, it has tons of information, and even an index of all the gear you might need. We find out if that’s enough for a couple of novice BBQers like us.
This book is all about heart-healthy eating and cooking and is endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. We examine this cookbook to see if these low-fat alternatives are as delicious as they are healthy.
Written in the late 1980′s, the original edition of this cookbook, with recipes suitable both for entertaining and for everyday, won many culinary awards in the US. We delve into this silver anniversary edition to see if there’s anything new to celebrate.
We’ve both been to many Nobu Restaurants around the world, and while it’s a pricey indulgence, the meals are worth it in our opinion. But can this cookbook possibly help home chefs like us create similar gourmet Japanese dishes?
This is the tenth edition of one of the biggest selling cookbooks of all time. The introduction states it’s full of simple, fast recipes, and lots of healthy alternatives. It promises to teach you everything you need to know to cook today.
This cookbook challenges you to explore the world and get outside your comfort zone. It’s full of recipes so authentic, they’re unpronounceable! We take our taste buds and cooking skills on a virtual trip to the Far East to find out if this cookbook can teach us the flavourful art of Subcontinent cuisine.
Jamie Oliver’s 7th cookbook aims to teach readers the basics of cooking in over 175 recipes. Jamie emphasizes flavour and freshness in his local, organic, and natural philosophy. Can Cook with Jamie really teach us to be better cooks?
Alice Medrich’s three previous cookbooks have won some prestigious culinary awards. Since we’re both fans of chocolate and desserts, we find out if this cookbook can make us into world-class candy and cookie-makers.
Julia Child was essentially America’s first celebrity chef. She emphasized technique and made cooking a passion for thousands of North Americans. We dive into the world of French cooking and take our best shot at re-creating some of Julia’s classics.
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