Jan 272017
 

NewWayToDinnerA New Way To Dinner
By Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
10 Speed Press

Standing in the kitchen at dinner time with a hungry family and no meal plan. A lot of people have experienced that scenario, including me. Many times the best solution turns out to be take-out. Or, if actual cooking is involved, often convenience foods such as rotisserie chicken or frozen pizza are part of the meal. Let’s face it. Putting good, fresh food on the table after working all day is hard. This cookbook offers a solution.

The basic strategy is to cook and prepare the main components of the week’s meals on the weekend, then use them throughout the week in different combinations. The book is divided into menus that go along with the four seasons to take advantage of the best produce for that time of year. Each author wrote two, week-long menus for each season. Each menu starts with a “The Week Ahead” page that details the recipes, what each dinner will feature, what work needs to be done the day of the dinner, and several brown bag lunches that can also be made. Then the reader moves on to a “Game Plan” that details which recipes should be made on the weekend and offers plenty of tips and tricks. The final component before the actual recipes is a grocery list.

Since this book is from the creators of the Food 52 website, the recipes emphasize quality ingredients. No condensed soup casseroles or frozen french fries in sight. The meals aren’t filled with the processed foods that many people may associate with getting a meal on the table quickly. Instead, the process of getting weeknight meals on the table quickly depends on a savvy prep plan. Some of the recipes included are Rosy Chicken, Stuck-Pot Rice, Garlicky Greens, and Lime Ice Cream. While simple, the recipes offer sophisticated flavors from around the world. If you have ever experienced the struggle of making meals on weeknights, this is definitely a cookbook to look into. The recipes and plans are easily modified to customize the meals to fit the tastes of any family.

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

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 January 27, 2017  Posted by  Review Tags:  1 Response »
Oct 112016
 

meditateyourweightMeditate Your Weight
By Tiffany Cruikshank
Published by Harmony Books

This book brings together two things that I, and probably many other people, would like to accomplish: a meditation practice and weight loss. The book begins with the benefits of meditating. That alone convinced me to try my hand at meditation. Not only does meditating, for as little as five to ten minutes a day, help relieve stress and other psychological issues, it can also physically affect your body by resetting an imbalanced endocrine system, reducing systemic inflation, and many other benefits.

Since weight loss is both mental and physical, this book has a 21-day “retreat” program to reboot your metabolism and attitude toward food. How? Through targeted meditations. Every day there is a new topic to meditate about, such as nourishment or vitality. There is an explanation on why the daily subject is important, followed by directions on how to do the specific meditation. Then you are asked to answer some questions in a journal to further explore the topic. Each day also has a different mantra, such as “I am healthy”, and some tips on building awareness–things to keep in mind on the subject as you go about your day.

The program is set up so that anybody can do it, even people who have never meditated before. Meditation times start out at a very doable three minutes and end after the three weeks at seventeen minutes. Then after the retreat program ends there is advice on how to continue with the meditation and weight loss journey.

I found it to be a wonderful book with a very friendly tone and lots of interesting information. It truly has made me look at meditation and struggles with weight loss differently. In fact, I began a regular meditation practice because of it.

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

 

 October 11, 2016  Posted by  Review Tags:  2 Responses »
Feb 142016
 

BetterThanBeforeBetter Than Before
By Gretchen Rubin

It’s that time of year. When resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Many of us have the best intentions to start the year fresh with a bounty of new, life-improving habits. But many times what we intend to do and what we end up doing are very different. It isn’t easy to establish new habits or break destructive ones.

“Better Than Before” isn’t a one-size fits all solution to forming habits. Instead of giving general advice which could work for some people, Ms. Rubin realizes that every person has a different habit-forming personality. First she helps readers decide on what disposition they have: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel or Questioner. Building on that basis she goes on to help people decide their habit-forming styles: lark or owl, sprinter or marathoner, simplicity or abundance lover, etc. These sections were a real eye-opener for me. I loved that it provided a way to zero in on habit establishing methods that work the best. Plus I had never really thought about how beneficial habits are. Of course, if you eat good foods and exercise you will be healthier. But habits also free up mental space. When you do something by habit, you don’t need to think about whether you want or don’t want to do something.

The rest of the book goes through different ways to establish habits like scheduling, abstaining or using rewards. Ms. Rubin gives examples from her own life as well as from her friends and people who have commented on her blog. And the many examples really drive home the point that people form habits differently. So many times I read how Ms. Rubin established a habit, and I would just shake my head. There is no way I would try the methods myself. Most of them sounded like torture since I have a different style than she does. And that is the beauty of this book. Once you decide what style works best for you, there is an abundance of advice to help you establish habits. Personally I found the advice Ms. Rubin dispensed to her sister and brother in-law, both television series writers, to be very helpful. My copy of the book is full of highlights and notes which I plan to use to start my own set of healthy, productive and efficient habits.

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

 February 14, 2016  Posted by  General, Review Tags:  2 Responses »
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, EatingFromTheGroundUp.com. 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 »
Aug 192015
 

Street Vegan: Recipes and Dispatches from the Cinnamon Snail Food Truck
By Adam Sobel
Published by Potter

There is one eating experience that I absolutely cannot resist indulging in if I have a chance, it’s visiting food trucks. I always find the food from trucks to be both delicious and innovative. So I was very excited to see that the chef from one of the most famous food trucks in the country, The Cinnamon Snail, wrote a cookbook.

The truck has won many awards for its cuisine. Upon receiving the cookbook, I understand why. If I ever get a chance to visit NYC, I am definitely going to track down The Cinnamon Snail! The recipes are sophisticated and bursting with flavor. Smoky Portobello and Potato Stuffed Poblanos, Korean Kimchi Soup, and even the famous cinnamon rolls the truck is named after are just a small sample of the recipes. Every meal is covered, from Almond Milk French Toast with Raspberry-Grapefruit Coulis and Smoky Roasted Almonds for breakfast, a Gochujang Burger Deluxe for lunch, and Pecan-Crusted Seitan with Smoked Mushroom Gravy and Fried Parsnip Matchsticks for dinner.

Some of the recipes have a lot of ingredients, but the recipe instructions are clear and walk cooks through the process of creating the flavor-filled gourmet vegan fare. Some ingredients may be difficult to find, but they are used in more than one recipe. I’m the kind of person that will buy food just because it sounds interesting, so I loved the My Vegan Pantry section of the book (subtitled: Some Kooky (and Not-So-Kooky) Things In The Snail’s Pantry). I am now on the lookout for Umeboshi Plum Vinegar  and Yacon Syrup to add to my pantry. There are stories about both Mr. Sobel and the food truck mixed in throughout the book. I love everything about this book and it has earned a place of honor in my cookbook collection.

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

 August 19, 2015  Posted by  Review Tags:  1 Response »
May 032015
 

Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
By Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay
Published by Ten Speed Press

Barbecue is an art form and Aaron Franklin is a superstar pitmaster. He went from cooking brisket for his friends, to opening a food truck, to owning a now world-renowned restaurant that has sold out of meat every single day since it has opened. People travel from all over the world to sample his barbecue. This book is a detailed chronicle of how he produces his spectacular barbecue.

The first chapter explains how Aaron and his wife, Stacy, came to be the owners of a restaurant where people wait for hours to get a taste of the food. It’s a story of humble beginnings, chasing a dream, and dogged determination. Then, the manifesto begins. Everything about the techniques Franklin uses is detailed. If you are handy with a welder, there are instructions on how to build a smoker from scratch, just like the ones they use at the restaurant, but on a smaller scale. Diagrams explain the mechanics of the smoker while photos show the building process. From there the book goes on to what kind of wood to use, how to build fires and how to prepare meats – from the famous brisket to turkey breast.

This is not a cookbook full of recipes, although there are a few for things like beans and espresso barbecue sauce. Instead, this is a step-by-step guide on how to reproduce barbecue similar to what is served at Franklin Barbecue. There is a lot of information, from how to start a proper fire in the smoker to tips on concocting your own rubs. Glimpses of what it’s like to run what is probably the most popular barbecue joint in the world right now are offered in between the barbecue-making wisdom. I love that there is an espresso maker in the kitchen for employees, since there are workers there literally around the clock to prepare the thousands of pounds of meat every day. For anybody that is interested in making truly great barbecue, this is a wonderful resource.

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

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 May 3, 2015  Posted by  Review Tags: ,  9 Responses »
Apr 102015
 

A Good Food Day

By Marco Canora

Published by Potter

The subtitle of this book is: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great. And that is exactly what the author did. He is a chef who found that he needed to make some major changes in his life. Unhealthy eating habits had left him with gout, high cholesterol and with a serious risk of developing diabetes. As a chef, working long hours in restaurants, he ate foods that would only make his conditions worse. At first he panicked about the diet changes, thinking healthy food wouldn’t taste as good and he would never enjoy eating again. But then he began doing research and found that healthy food didn’t have to be bland. This cookbook is the result of his quest to make foods that are good for you taste wonderful. A Good Food Day is a day when feeling well and eating well go hand in hand.

There are a lot of vegetarian recipes in this book, as I had expected. I can’t wait to try the Pear-Maple Oatmeal Shake for breakfast soon. There a salads, soups, side dishes and even sweets like Hazelnut Brownies. While much of Canora’s diet now is plant based he still eats healthy fish and lean meats like wild salmon and grass-fed beef. The one recipe that really caught my eye was Flavor-Pounded Chicken. He uses a meat tenderizing mallet to pound herbs and spices into boneless, skinless chicken breasts. What a great way to add a huge boost of flavor to an otherwise bland meat. Bonus that the flattened chicken is quick to cook.

Most of the recipes use readily available ingredients. I think the only ingredient I have never seen in my area is marinated anchovies.  The pantry list at the beginning is a great way to start building a healthy arsenal of foods. There are no complicated recipes with long ingredient lists, just easily made, healthy dishes that are full of flavor. I can’t wait to try more of these recipes, especially with fresh produce from the farmer’s market this summer!

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

 April 10, 2015  Posted by  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 »
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 »