Here's the good news. Rachel Ray is one of the most talented recipe creators around. This book is no exception. The food here looks and reads delicious. The book is also beautifully illustrated with photographs of completed meals. The food, as advertised, is mostly "make ahead."
So why only three stars?
With a title like Week in a Day I was expecting a week of recipes that used many of the same ingredients and were easy for a busy home cook shop for and put together easily. This book, which contains a list of cooking days, each with a list of five recipes might better be titled "Week in a Very Long Day." Even very experienced cooks, used to cooking ahead will find a Sunday spent cooking these recipes all together, very long. Most weeks contain just a few recipes that truly help one another. For example, Week 1 starts out with pork tacos and ends with pork ragu. Okay that works. But in the middle come Crab Cake Mac and Cheese, meatloaf and a ratatouille, all of which use different proteins, many ingredients which don't overlap and require different timing. And don't get me started on the clean-up. I'm exhausted just thinking about it as no effort is made to consolidate.
Most cookbooks with a make-it-in-one-day title, contain strategies for organizing a day of cooking, such as chopping onions for three recipes at the same time, or even sautéing them together. This book contains no such strategies and it's not clear why the reader should want to make them during the same week.
The book also lacks shopping lists. The cheery introduction lists "Make a shopping list" in the READ ME FIRST! Section. Is this the same cook who gave us ingenious 3 in 1 recipes? The one who wrote the fantastic No Repeats book? It's hard to believe that the same author who wrote those and other excellent cookbooks is giving me advice like "check your pantry" before you go shopping. Yeah, I think I knew that.
Yes there are some synergies in the recipes for a given week, and there are four foundation recipes on which a number of recipes are derived, but for an experienced cook a foundation recipe for poached chicken is no innovation.
The book starts with an introduction where Rachel explains that on her one day off she shops early in the day, then opens a bottle of wine and spends the next five to six hours cooking.
I would say "is she kidding," except that I know perfectly well that this is nonsense. I don't for one minute believe she does this, though she may have tried it for this cookbook. Its exhausting. I can only imagine how guilty and frustrated this will make a young person who tries to live up to this, and holds down a full time job.
Having spent the past thirty plus years working full time and cooking on weekends I know that this is not how it's done. People who work six days a week don't cook five make ahead meals three of which contain vastly different ingredients and cooking methods and cook for six hours! if you want to prepare a week of family meals and survive, you pick out one or two core proteins and and make variations on those. Or you make two large recipes (roast chicken and veg chile, for example), make variations for meal 2 & 4 (chicken soup and veg tacos) and add a meal that cooks quickly such as broiled salmon.
Because I love Rachel Ray's recipes, I was hoping that this would be the book that could help me do, what I do faster and better and with Ray's great recipes. Unfortunately that is not the case.
This is a good solid cookbook. Had it been named "Meals that Keep," I would have been a lot happier.