April 30, 2015

Lighten Up, Y'all by Virginia Willis

Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons
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I grew up on Southern cooking. My parents are Southern born and bred, so even when we weren't living in the South, that's how we ate. This is a great cookbook: Southern favorites with a healthy twist. Some things struck me as a little odd, though. For instance, biscuits and sausage gravy are a southern staple. Instead of just adding 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour to standard white flour, why not at least use unbleached flour in place of the white. The carrot cake looks amazing--they did a great job of making it healthier...until you get to the frosting with a whole pound of confectioner's sugar! Aren't there any healthier frostings out there? Also, the Makeover Broccoli Mac and Cheese calls for 1 c 50% reduced fat cheese and 3/4 c 75% reduced fat cheese. That just seems silly to buy two different fat content cheeses for such small amounts. I also did not appreciate the swear word in one of the recipe titles.

Caveats aside, as I said earlier, this is a great book. Want some fried okra, but not all the fat? Try it oven-fried! Love the Seven-Layer Dip you find at potlucks and reunions all over the South, but not the calories? Try her "Sinless" version. Grilled Potato Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette, Sassy Slaw, Baked Zucchini Crisps (probably my new favorite recipe!!), New Soul Creole Dirty Rice, Turkey Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy, Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak, Multi-Grain Pecan Waffles and Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cake and many more round out a great collection of Southern recipes made a little healthier.

I received a copy of this book from Ten Speed Press through Blogging for Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

March 30, 2015

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking by Caitlin Weeks

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking: Over 150 Fresh Coastal Recipes for a Relaxed, Gluten-Free Lifestyle
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons
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I'll admit, I do not follow a paleo diet, but I love Mediterranean food, so I thought I'd give this one a chance. While I'm not avoiding grains, I am trying to eat healthier. Early on in the book they tell you to avoid legumes, a greatly used ingredient in Mediterranean cooking with known health benefits. With no grains or legumes, I'm pretty sure I'll not be moving to a paleo diet, but on to the recipes.

The Pistachio-Crusted Sole looks AMAZING and is definitely on my to-cook list. Savory Chicken Kebabs are quick and easy as well as delicious and the Cioppino is just as it should be. There is a nice variety of foods from Breakfast to Pizza & Pasta, Seafood, Vegetables, Desserts and so much more. At the back of the book there are basic recipes for spice mixes, harissa, broths and more. It includes some tutorials, menu ideas and even a photo index (in addition to the regular one) divided by chapters. There are some great recipes in here--and some I know I'll never try--but there's plenty to recommend this book. If you are a paleo fan you should love this book. If you're not, give it a try. You may love it.

I received a copy of this book from Victory Belt Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels

My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons
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To me, Japanese cuisine reminds me a little of Italian in regards to style. Simple, good ingredients well cooked with occasionally a more complex dish thrown in. This book seems to embody that. String Beans with Crunchy Toasted Peanuts (vs Italy's sauteed green beans with garlic and slivered almonds), Scallops with Citrus Miso Sauce, Spring Rain Summer Noodle Salad, Chicken Balls in Teriyaki Sauce, Yakitori Rice Bowl and more deliver that delicious flavor of simple ingredients cooked well. If you're into it, there are some nice Bento box recipes near the back of the book.

This is a gorgeous book. I love that most of the recipes have a color photo so you know what your supposed to end up with. A few have additional, smaller, step-by-step photos that are especially nice. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. All-in-all, this is a great cookbook of Japanese fare that I think most would enjoy.

I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Asian Kitchen by Kong Foong Ling

The Asian Kitchen: Fabulous Recipes from Every corner of Asia [Asian Cookbook, 380 Recipes]
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons
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This is a great introduction to Asian cuisine! It begins with The Flavors of Asia, Ingredients and The Asian Kitchen before moving into the recipes. Each section covers an Asian country starting with Suggested Menus and then is broken down into sections such as (but not limited to) Appetizers, Soups and Desserts. Some countries have more sections than others, but all is nicely organized and there are gorgeous color photos scattered throughout. The countries covered are Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia & Singapore, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. There is an appendix with weight and measurement conversions and a great index where you can search by country or ingredient. I thought that was a nice touch.

The recipes range from simple to more complex. The cover says "Thoroughly and expertly presents the entire spectrum of the Asian culinary landscape, from Burma to Vietnam. --Ming Tsai". Personally, that said a lot to me about the book. If Ming Tsai recommends it, then it is something I definitely am interested in! Make a lovely, simple fried rice for supper tonight, or go wild and try a whole menu either from a country or a fun melting-pot style menu with each course from a different country. Add as little or as much spice as you want and enjoy yourself. I'm going to!

I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

March 17, 2015

The Breakfast Book by Dorset Cereals

The Breakfast Book: Wonderful Recipes and Ideas for Eggs, Bacon, Muesli and Beyond. Dorset Cereals
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons
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I have never been a big breakfast person, sometimes not eating until lunch time, but I know that's not healthy, so I'm always on the lookout for good breakfast food. This is a great little book for all kinds of days, from the days you need a power lift, to a romantic morning or outdoors breakfast.

I first tried the Baked Egg Baguettes, and it was a huge hit. It's quick to prep, and the 20-25 min bake time lets me accomplish at least one of my morning chores while it cooks, and the end result is completely scrumptious! The Chorizo, Tomato and Manchego Panini sounds absolutely amazing along with the Blueberry & Honey Bruschetta, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Raspberries and most of the other recipes in this book. No more skipping breakfast! Dig in and find some great dishes (including smoothies and other drinks) to start your day!

I received a copy of this book from Pavilion Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

March 12, 2015

Clean Slate by Martha Stewart

Clean Slate: A Cookbook and Guide: Reset Your Health, Detox Your Body, and Feel Your Best
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons
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This is a nice cookbook with some good information and recipes, but not really much new. There are your classic juices and smoothies, salads, chicken, roasted veggies, and so forth. Don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff here. It just doesn't feel groundbreaking to me. Overall, the book feels like more effort went into presentation than content. I mean, do we really need an entire page that all it says is, "Golden Rule No. 8 remember to stay hydrated" followed by a page of how good water is for us and how much we should drink along with a little information on other healthy drinks?

The book is in two parts; Reset and Recipes. There is some good information in the Reset section along with some that makes you wonder how stupid they think people really are. It ends with a 3-day action plan and a 21-day action plan. From there it moves to recipes. As I stated above, there's a lot of basic recipes you find in most cookbooks of this type (kale chips, anyone?), but there's some good stuff, too. I make what we call "cold oatmeal" and the book calls "Fruit and Almond Alpine Muesli", but I never thought of using yogurt in place of half of the milk. I'll definitely try that next time! I'll probably pass on the Sardines and Cream Cheese on Rye (for breakfast!?!), but I definitely want to try the Cardamom Quinoa Porridge with Pear.

Overall, this is a good cookbook. If you have a pile of these already on your shelf, it may not be anything new, but for someone who really wants to start eating better and get healthy, this is a great cookbook for them.

I received a copy of this book through Blogging for Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Passion for Pizza by Craig Whitson

Passion for Pizza: A Journey Through Thick and Thin to Find the Pizza Elite
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons
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Calling all pizza lovers! I've had a few pizza books, and I was really expecting more of the same; a smallish book with a couple dozen or so pizza recipes with a little miscellaneous history or information thrown in. Boy, was I wrong! There is history from Italy starting at Naples and moving throughout the country with many pizzerias highlighted before heading to the States with chapters on New York, Chicago/Phoenix and California.

There is an entire section dedicated to Ingredients and Equipment and it is a jewel! Flour; so much information about one simple ingredient! Did you know that durum wheat is used for Neapolitan pizza, but 00 is better for most other pizzas? Tomatoes, cheese, olive oil, cured meats and basil are covered under ingredients, while baking stones, pizza peels, pizza wheels, electric mixers or food processors, knives and so much more are covered under equipment.

Now we come to page 181--recipes!! Six dough recipes are followed by three sauce recipes before getting to the "good stuff". There is such a great variety of recipes here; something for everyone. There's even a couple of desserts at the end. Nutella Alla Spacca Napoli is not to be missed! My favorite pizza would probably be the Pizza Quattro Formaggi, though I would trade out a couple of the cheeses to make it closer to the amazing Quattro Formaggi I had in Sicily! I would substitute Emmental for the Gorgonzola piccante, and Primo Sale (a young pecorino cheese) or Pecorino Toscana for the Parmigiano-Reggiano. That is just me, though.

This is a truly lovely cookbook that I thoroughly enjoyed and am happy to highly recommend. Dive in and enjoy!!

I received a copy of this book from Agate Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.