Cookbook review | Make a meal in a mug

For The Sun NewsJune 30, 2014 



Little did I know when I took in a sale at one of the local outlet kitchen stores on mugs for office soup that I would also be purchasing a fantastic portion control device for future use.

Camilla Saulsbury has solved my portion control problem once and for all. Her recipes in “250 Best Meals in a Mug” often call for 16-ounce servings – two small mugs or one of the larger (soup in a mug). These larger mugs, which are ovenproof and microwave safe, are available in local kitchen stores on the Grand Strand. I know because I bought two! “Meals in an a Mug” recipes also are simple, using few ingredients and quick prep, including cooking. I noted that with few exceptions, mostly for ease of preparation, she relies on fresh ingredients.

It’s no wonder that Saulsbury’s book pays good attention to health. This San Francisco native who now lives in Texas is a fitness trainer, endurance athlete, creator of a healthy food blog, “Power Hungry,” and holds a PhD in sociology with specialties in food studies, health and medicine.

Readers of this cookbook benefit from all of her knowledge and experience, not only in the recipes but also in the series of tips she provides with each recipe on cooking on ingredient substitutions, on how long to keep items in the refrigerator, and more.

Of course all of my portion control talk is because one of the areas of the book I liked best is the dessert section! The lemon cake, gingerbread and brown sugar sweet potato cake recipes are on my must-try list. I crave cakeoften, but no one else in my house likes cake.

Another great category is soup. Soup for one or two is a difficult concept for homemade, since most homemade soup recipes make quarts of the stuff. Her solutions are varied, from black bean to tomato and more. If you don’t want to make soup for an army and don’t want to open a can of soup, you will find her solutions and recipes a boon to your mealtime prep and a boost to your creativity for creating easy, small soup recipes of your own.

Of course, my love for this author’s creativity also comes with the fact that we share a mutual love affair with that lowly but highly nutritious legume, the lentil, a great source of nutrition, and the chickpea, another wonderful nutrition source.

The only question I have is that the author calls for canned lentils. I imagine she does this to save time for the reader. While rinsing does remove the excess sodium in canned lentils, I prefer to use dried lentils. I use the brown common lentils in these recipes. Rinse and pick over the dry lentils, then cook in water for about 20 minutes. No salt needed in the water, but a bay leaf adds flavor. Lentils double (roughly) in volume when cooked so to equal in the amount in a 15-ounce can, cook 1 cup or 8 ounces of dry lentils.

The canned lentils I found were pricey, more than $2 per can. Dried lentils cost under $2 for a pound bag, twice the amount. (Note: Cans used to be 19 ounces. Most are 15 ounces now.)

Koshari, an Egyptian staple that mixes orzo pasta, lentils and tomato sauce, usually calls for large amounts of all ingredients and is served to big crowds. Her take makes an amount you can eat once and not have to eat all week. For those of you who love our southern staple shrimp and grits, she also offers a quick mug version of that delight and it sounds great.

I plan to use my mugs more often this summer. I think you will find her recipes fun, as well.

Joan Leotta, For The Sun News

Double Lemon Cake

Recipes courtesy of “ 250 Best Meals in a Mug“ by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Reprinted with publisher permission.

16-oz. mug, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray


• 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder

• 1⁄8 tsp. salt

• 1 large egg

• 3 tbsp. granulated sugar

• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

• 11⁄2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice


• 1⁄3 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar

• 11⁄2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cake : In the mug, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Using a fork, beat in egg, sugar, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice until very well blended.

Microwave on high for 11⁄2 to 2 minutes (checking at 11⁄2) or until risen and center is just set. Let cool slightly or entirely in mug. Eat directly from mug or gently remove to a small plate.

Icing: In a small bowl or cup, use a fork to stir confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over cake.


• Using oil, instead of butter, in this recipe helps to keep the cake extra-moist.

• You can use 1⁄8 tsp lemon extract in place of the lemon zest.


16 oz. mug

• 1/3 cup orzo

• 2/3 cup water

• 1/2 cup rinsed drained, canned lentils

• 1/4 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/2 cup chunky marinara sauce

• 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce

(Suggested additions: fresh mint or parsley, crumbled feta cheese)

In the mug, combine the orzo and water. Place in microwave on top of doubled paper towel. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, microwave on high for 3 minutes. If the mixture appears dry, add 1 more tablespoon of water to the mug. Microwave on high for 1-2 more minutes or until orzo is tender.

Stir in lentils, cumin, marinara sauce and hot pepper sauce. Microwave on high for 60-75 seconds or until heated through. Serve.

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