Dec 172015


Since my new book is Fudge Brownies & Murder, I figured brownies would be the perfect thing to giveaway to celebrate the release. And these aren’t just any kind of brownies. No, they’re made in a miniature cast iron skillet that you can use over and over to make ooey, gooey brownies for two (or one). Use the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win. I’ll choose a winner after Christmas. Good luck!

U.S. entrants only, please.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dec 032015

My PantryMy Pantry
By Alice Waters with Fanny Singer
Published by Pam Krauss Books

This is a lovely, in so many ways, little book about some of the staples in chef Alice Waters’ pantry. While my pantry has far less sophisticated ingredients, I can’t wait to add more gourmet fare using this cookbook. Recipes range from spice blends to homemade cheese. Some recipes, such as the Espelette Hot Sauce, add to your pantry stash. Others, like Lebanese-inspired lentil soup and whole-wheat flatbreads, use ingredients from the pantry. I have a feeling the multigrain porridge, containing brown rice, millet and quinoa, will be a mainstay breakfast for me this winter. For adventurous cooks there are instruction for accomplishing tasks such as making wine vinegar in oak casks, salt-preserving kumquats, and curing gravlax.

This book is like a cookbook jewel. Small in size. Charming illustrations, the full-page pantry drawing before the Table of Contents is wonderful, all drawn by Waters’ daughter – Fanny Singer. Many of the recipes have variations, which I greatly appreciate. Everything is woven together with Alice’s thorough instructions. It’s a book that would be right at home on a pantry shelf, next to the vinegars and flours, to be called on like a trusted friend.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


 December 3, 2015  Posted by  Food, Review Tags: ,  2 Responses »
Nov 082015

The Homemade KitchenThe Homemade Kitchen
By Alana Chernila
Published by Potter

The subtitle of this cookbook is: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure. There are recipes that will be pleasurable for both novice and experienced cooks to try their hand at. Beyond that readers can find chapters on everything from cooking for one to making meals for a crowd. There are basics, like how to cook a variety of vegetables or turn fruit into jam. For more adventurous cooks there is a chapter on cultured foods and recipes for making classic, usually store-bought snacks like cheesy fish or animal crackers.

Alana writes the blog, This cookbook carries on the style of her popular blog. It is beautiful with matte pages, gorgeous photos and charming hand drawn accents, like a page of her favorite inspiring sayings. As I read the introduction I instantly knew I would love this book.

I cook because feeding myself is the one basic, essential, daily requirement that I can do entirely in my own way.

-Alana Chernilla, The Homemade Kitchen

The philosophy of the book is to find pleasure in cooking, doing the best that you can with your ingredients and skills. So you can try your hand at a roasting a chicken or be a bit adventurous and make your own tofu or chevre cheese. There is even a chapter called “Use Your Scraps” with recipes to help reduce the waste in your kitchen.

My favorite chapter was “Feed Yourself”. It’s all about meals for one, a type of cooking I often find myself doing since I work from home. I can’t wait to try the single-serving Shakshuka (eggs in tomato sauce) and The Arlesienne (a French salad with potatoes, tuna, and chickpeas) for lunch. With winter coming I’m looking forward to making the Miso Soup, loaded with tofu and veggies, and Congee with Chicken and Greens, a savory rice porridge. The focus is on good food with a mix of recipes representing countries from around the world. It’s a bit eclectic, but that makes it all the more appealing. The range of recipes completely fits into the idea of creative, nourishing cooking.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 November 8, 2015  Posted by  Food, Review Tags:  1 Response »
Mar 112015

Supermarket Healthy: Recipes & Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending A Lot
By Melissa D’Arabian
Published by Potter

Now that the weather is finally getting warmer my thoughts are turning toward eating healthier. This cookbook is full of healthy recipes that use ingredients that can be found at most supermarkets. There are recipes that cover every meal of the day, from Cinnamon Popovers with Cream Cheese Glaze to sides for dinner like Rosemary Sweet Potatoes with Almond Butter.

While Ms. D’Arabian is known for her Food Network show about cooking inexpensive meals with this book she has shifted her focus a bit and amped up the healthiness of her budget-friendly meals. There are tips throughout the book for supermarket, kitchen and entertainment strategies to help readers stretch their budget while still eating healthy, tasty food. I love the recipe “blueprints” that are also included. These recipes are actually step-by-step directions on how to make everything from frittata to meatballs with numerous options for cooks to personalize the recipe’s formula. A great resource for cooks like me who like to tailor recipes to suit my family’s tastes.

I found the recipes to be simple to make yet very flavorful. There is a pantry list for the cookbook that, once stocked, will make many of the recipes even easier to make without an expensive trip to the supermarket to buy new ingredients for every meal. The pantry items are used in multiple recipes so money isn’t wasted on ingredients that will be partially used then left to sit in refrigerators and cupboards. This is a gem of a book for people looking to eat healthier, but don’t want to spend a fortune doing so.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 March 11, 2015  Posted by  Food, Review Tags:  6 Responses »
Feb 222015

Winter has been brutal here in Michigan with record-breaking low temperatures and wind chills. Very much like the weather that is hitting the fictional town of Kellerton, Michigan in Chicken Soup & Homicide. To celebrate the book’s release and give one lucky winner a fun way to chase away the winter doldrums I’m giving away a cupcake party. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

One lucky winner will receive everything in the picture above:

  • a fox-themed set of napkins/cupcake liners/cupcake toppers
  • 4 acrylic purple polka dot glasses
  • 4 aqua-colored plastic bowls
  • double-chocolate cupcake mix and chocolate icing

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be announced on this post and contacted via email after the contest is over. If the winner doesn’t respond within 48 hours another winner will be chosen.

Feb 032015

Okay…some mistakes are awesome. That ex-boyfriend that seemed awesome in college was still a mistake that should’ve been avoided. But sometimes things that seem like mistakes are really more like your subconscious telling you what you need before you know you need it.

See that package above? You may have seen it before in the picture from my post about going to several ethnic grocery stores. I bought the bag of cream of wheat because I thought I had seen a recipe for flatbread that used it. I was wrong. The recipe used chickpea flour instead. So I bought the wrong ingredient. An inexpensive, the bag cost around $2, mistake. No big deal, but not awesome. Yet.

Last week I ended up catching the cold that was making the rounds in my family. Nothing terrible, but still annoying and uncomfortable. Just what I needed since I was very close to completing the first draft of my next book.  I wanted to finish the first draft by the end of January. Not so easy to keep writing every day when what I really wanted to do was just lay on the couch all day and watch TV. I needed comfort food. Something warm for my stuffy nose. Something soothing for my sore throat. And something filling for my finicky appetite. Guess what was the perfect remedy. Cream of wheat. Yup. The mistake.

Cooked on the stove with a mixture of water and milk for the liquid. Always a sprinkling of nutmeg. Sometimes a splash of vanilla extract. Sweetened with brown sugar and rounded out with a pat of butter. Constantly whisking the porridge as it cooked provided a nice little Zen-like break. The grocery mistake was exactly what I needed to combat the cold so I could keep writing. And the final bit of serendipity…I finished the bag of cream of wheat and the novel on the same day.

Jan 272015

The Moosewood Cookbook 40th Anniversary Edition
By Mollie Katzen
Published by Ten Speed Press

There are some cookbooks that stand the test of time. After being welcomed into countless kitchens they become one of the go-to books for many cooks. The Moosewood Cookbook is one of those books. It features vegetarian recipes that were developed in the author’s restaurant in the 1970s. Hearty, healthy dishes that will often appeal to non-vegetarians too. In this edition some of the recipes have been updated a bit, but the book still holds the charm of the original.

The entire book is handwritten and illustrated with line drawings – some simple, some more complicated, all delightful. It makes the reader feel like she is flipping through Ms. Katzen’s recipe files, which is exactly what the original version of this book was. After receiving many requests for recipes from the restaurant, she sat down, wrote out many of them, then had them copied and bound at a local bookstore. A very humble beginning for a beloved-by-many book.

With the popularity of global cuisine now, the ethnic recipes aren’t as exotic as they probably seemed forty years ago. But that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t tasty! I made the apple crisp. It was hearty with plenty of oats and not syrupy sweet like some recipes for the same dish that I’ve tried. Some of the recipes were revamped from the original photocopied version, lightened up or revised to improve flavor and texture in the mid-1980s. Twenty five recipes were also added at that time. The 40th Anniversary Edition is a clothbound hardcover with gold-toned fabric and blue embossed images of fruit, vegetables and leaves. Between the rather coarse fabric cover and the absence of a dust jacket, to me it feels like a book that is meant to be used, not placed on a shelf because it is too precious to risk staining the pages with beet juice or olive oil.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


 January 27, 2015  Posted by  Food, Review Tags:  3 Responses »
Jan 162015

Since before Christmas I have been asking my husband to go with me to an Asian market in a nearby city. I had never been there, but heard that it had a wonderful selection. Since I have an ever-expanding collection of cookbooks that call for ingredients that definitely aren’t available at my local grocery store, trips to ethic grocery stores (or mail order) is the only way I can make many of the recipes whose descriptions make my mouth water.

Two days ago my husband was working from home and surprised me by saying he’d go to the market. When we got there I got another surprise. The market is in a strip mall that sits behind a row of businesses. One of the places you have to pull into the parking lot to actually see the businesses because they aren’t visible from the road. Oooh boy! Not only was there the Asian market I intended to go to, there were also a second Asian grocer AND and Indian market. Foodie heaven in a strip mall.

As I walked around the small stores, looking at packages, I was searching my mind for what exotic ingredients I needed for recipes that had caught my eye in the past. I got everything from green cardamom pods, dried woodear fungus that states “genuine fungus” on the package, a big jar of kimchi turned a vibrant red from the ground chili pepper paste in it to a package of dried tofu sticks. My I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-I’ll-try-it item was a jar labeled bean sauce.

My favorite dish from my local Chinese restaurant is black bean chicken. Sauteed chicken and veggies with pungent, uber-umami bits of flavor courtesy of whole, fermented black beans. I figured the sauce I bought was just those beans ground up into a sauce. Close, but not quite. I did a little research and found it is made with different kinds of beans and is essentially the Chinese version of Japanese miso. Score! I love miso. I can’t wait to try it this weekend.

My husband dutifully followed me around. He long ago got accustomed to my obsession with odd or exotic food. He doesn’t understand it sometimes, like my excitement to discover packages of dried shrimp because now I can try cooking Burmese food, but he puts up with it. This week he even picked out a few things for himself from the snack food aisles. So does anybody else go to grocery stores and buy unfamiliar foods? “Ooh, that’s looks interesting. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll try it.”

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads


 January 16, 2015  Posted by  Food Tags:  7 Responses »
Dec 102014

A Kitchen In France: A Year of Cooking In My Farmhouse
By Mimi Thorisson
Publisher: Clarkson Potter

This is a gorgeous book for food lovers. A cookbook that can be read like a novel but it is also filled with photos of food and scenes from life in the French countryside. Ms. Thorisson writes the blog, Manger. Her husband, Oddur, is a photographer and he took most of the photos for the book. It’s a coffee table book because of the size and beautiful photography, but also a cookbook that will be referenced many times over the course of a year because of the recipes.

The recipes are organized by season featuring the culinary bounty that is found in the markets or foraged from the land around the Thorisson’s house in the Medoc region of France. Some of the recipes that caught my eye are Chou Farci – Savoy cabbage stuffed with a savory pork filling, Lyonnaise Sausage Roll – brioche baked with sausage inside, and Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water – a simple dessert with the unexpected addition of the orange flower water. For the most part the recipes are simple and straight-forward everyday meals from the kitchen of a busy mom often with seven children afoot to feed. A few ingredients, like squab, pork cheeks or cepes, may not be so easily accessible for some cooks in the U.S., but there are plenty of other dishes to try with more readily available meats and produce.

I enjoyed the writing in this book as much as the recipes and photographs. It was a literary vacation to rural France. The Thorisson family moved from Paris to the countryside. While the lifestyle change was welcome, their growing family needed more space than what a Paris apartment could offer, it did take some time to get used to and Ms. Thorisson talks about how it feels to be a city girl in the country. Her writing style is chatty and conversational, like sitting down with a friend. Overall it is a very enjoyable book, especially if you are interested in France or French cooking.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 December 10, 2014  Posted by  Food, Review Tags: ,  7 Responses »
Nov 162014

The Kitchen Ecosystem
By Eugenia Bone
Clarkson Potter/Publishers

A trip to the grocery store can by a budget-busting experience now. When you pay hard earned money for food, why not use it as fully as possible? That’s the principal behind this book. Turn chicken bones into broth, beet greens into side dishes and apple peels into jelly.

The book is alphabetized according to ingredient. So if you get a deal on fresh apricots or salmon you can easily find recipes to utilize your bounty. Each ingredient has recipes to: Eat Some Fresh, Preserve Some, Use The Preserve, and Use The Scraps. At the beginning of each food section there is a flow chart listing the recipes. They’re simple and unadorned, but a nice, graphic touch that I love.

Just because using ingredients fully is economical, that doesn’t mean the book highlights only inexpensive meats and produce. You can find sections on fresh tuna, lobster and duck. Since those types of foods are a splurge to many people that’s all the more reason to make sure you get as many meals as possible from the purchase. The recipes are often quite simple to make, but have a sophisticated, gourmet flair like Warm Scallop and Potato Salad with Lobster Reduction or Ricotta and Marinated Mushroom Pie. For people that want to tackle the preserving recipes there is a section at the end of the book to help with things like canning, pickling and freezing. It also goes over basic techniques such as cooking pasta in broth and preparing crepes.

I really love this cookbook. Not only does it help stretch my food budget a little farther it’s also full of recipes that I want to try. I’m sure I will be turning to it often.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 November 16, 2014  Posted by  Food, Review Tags: ,  6 Responses »