January 20, 2016

The Tea Book by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby

The Tea Book: All Things Tea
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

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Today is the perfect day for a good book and a hot cup of tea. "The Tea Book" gives you everything you need to know about tea from how tea is enjoyed around the world to The History of Tea, Plant to Pot, Drinking Tea and recipes for teas and mixed drinks as well as dishes either to go with your tea or made using tea. This is an informative, fun book that is as great to read as it is to cook from.

The recipes are varied and range from Tea-Infused Beef on a Green Papaya Salad to Matcha and Chocolate Shortbread and Tea Smoked Duck Breasts with Spiced Pears. My favorite recipe is the Earl Grey Hearts, a delicate shortbread-type cookie with the subtle flavor of Earl Grey tea. They are easy to make and an absolute delight to eat!

Whether your interest is in history, the correct etiquette of tea drinking around the world, or just a good cup of tea, this book has you covered. Hmmm. I think I'll go brew another pot.

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

Country Cookbook by Belinda Jeffrey

Country Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes from My Kitchen
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

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It's a cold and snowy day today. Just the kind of day to curl up with a fire in the fireplace, and soft throw and a good book. That's the beauty of this cookbook as it's not just a cookbook, but a sort of journal as well--just the thing for a day like today. The author has a way with words that draws you in and lets you "see" what she's writing about. For instance, and Feb 27th she writes, "Wonder of wonders, a dry wind, which is like a balm after the humidity of the past few months, is blowing its way up the valley, whipping up a frenzy in the treetops and causing the palms to rattle their spikes like sabres." or July 12th where she writes, "A friend has dropped in a big bunch of cavolo nero, which I love. Do you know it? The name translates from the Italian as 'black cabbage', although its leaves are more a lovely dark green with just a tinge of blue. They're narrow and crinkly, and when you wash them they almost seem to be waterproof, as the drops slip off them, leaving silvery trails. We'll have it for dinner tonight with some grilled polenta. Perfect." which is then followed by the recipe for the dish.

I love the variety of recipes in this book. From her take on classics such as Roast Chicken With Oodles of Herbs, Crunchy Rosemary Potatoes (which I LOVE), or Golden Tomato, Yellow Capsicum (Australian for Bell Pepper) and Fresh Mozzarella Salad which is a lovely variation of the classic Caprese Salad, to interesting dishes such as Middle Eastern Double Lentil Soup, Roast Sweet Potato with Smoked Parika, Parsley & Macadamia Pesto or Coiled Mushroom, Hazelnut & Dill Strudel, there is a little bit of everything is this book.

We had a laid-back day yesterday, and so I decided to make the Saffron, Basil & Ricotta Tart for lunch. It had mixed reviews, but that was purely due to individual tastes. My youngest strongly disliked it, but she has an issue with certain textures in food that this dish definitely had a texture she never enjoys. My husband wasn't a huge fan, but "frou-frou" dishes such as quiches and tarts aren't really his thing. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fruit prices are definitely on the high side around here lately, so I was thrilled to find some blueberries on sale. I thought of treating my family to blueberry muffins, but then I found the recipe for Blueberry Pikelets (Aussie pancakes) and decided to try them. They were a HUGE hit. The batter makes a delicious pikelet/pancake on its own, and the blueberries just make it even more special. We will be making this dish often!

This is just an all-around, delightful cookbook. I have enjoyed reading it, cooking from it and eating the results. It is a great addition to my favorite cookbooks, and one that I am very happy to highly recommend.

I received a copy of this cookbook from Penguin Lantern Press through IPG for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

January 19, 2016

An Old-Fashioned Christmas by Ellen Stimson

An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

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What a charming book!! From the sweet stories and traditions to the delightful recipes, it is a treat to both read and cook from. It made our Christmas even more of a treat.

Maple Pecan Cookies are delicious little morsels that keep you coming back for more. The Decadent Mac 'N Cheese has become a family favorite, and is truly decadent with gruyere and parmesan cheeses. Dishes such as Loaded Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Chive Biscuits will liven up any family dinner, and treats such as Coffee Cream Puffs and Spicy Pecans will be a welcome addition to any party--holiday or otherwise. Your pets are not forgotten, either, with Peanut Butter Dog Treats, Minty Fresh Dog Treats and more for your furry friends.

From Cabin Food to Party Foods, Christmas Eve Brunch, Christmas All Day Long, The Next Day and more, your holiday season is covered here. This is a book sure to delight the Christmas lover in you.

I received a copy of this book from The Countryman Press for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

January 18, 2016

Gelato, Ice Cream & Sorbets by Linda Tubby

Gelato, Ice Creams & Sorbets
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

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The first time I visited Sicily, I couldn't wait to try the gelato. I decided on pistachio the first time, and never moved beyond it that first trip...it was just that good. My next trip I branched out and tried the Bacio, which is a dark chocolate and hazelnut blend. Heaven in a dish! It immediately became my favorite and though I would try bites of others' choices--and even thoroughly enjoy them--pistachio and bacio became my favorite, go-to choices. Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted to find recipes for both in this darling cookbook. I started with the Bacio. Now this recipe is called Bacio con Bianchini e Nocciole meaning "Rich Chocolate Gelato with Meringues and Hazelnut". I have a confession to make...I ditched the meringues! I'm somewhat of a purist at times, and it just wasn't something I was interested in it cluttering up my Bacio gelato. Oh, my! It's absolutely amazing! Feel free to add the meringues, but I can attest to the amazing flavor of this gelato without them.

Of course, now it was time for the Pistachio. Most pistachio ice cream or gelato that I've had in the States tastes like ice cream with pistachios in it. I remember my first bite in Agrigento, Sicily and how amazed I was at the deep flavor. It wasn't just a pistachio flavor, but was like you were eating pistachios themselves only it was ice cream. I had high hopes for this recipe and let me just say I was NOT disappointed!! With the first bite I was transported back to that little street in Agrigento having my first taste of Sicilian gelato. I kid you not, it was that good!! The punch of pistachio is just amazing. I will admit, that I added more pistachios that called for as I added some whole, toasted pistachios while it was churning, but you still would have that amazing flavor without them.

I have only made the two recipes so far, but they have definitely sold me on this book! So many gelato recipes, so little time! My kids love different flavors, so they will keep me trying more and I still want to dive into the sorbets. This little book has definitely earned its way onto my favorites shelf! I am very happy to highly recommend it!

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

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Pearl Barrett

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook: Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes
My rating: 2 of 5 spoons

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As a homeschool mom who needs to get a little healthier and lose some weight while I'm at it, I was so excited to review this cookbook. I was much more disappointed once I got into it. While there are great looking recipes, so very many call for their specialty ingredients. While there is a section in the front of substitutions, some clearly state that you're not going to get as good a result without using their special blend/ingredient. I can't afford pricey specialty items for everyday dishes, and there were so MANY of them, so this cookbook turned into a great disappointment for me.

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

December 29, 2015

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen by Linda Maria Steele

My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

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I love New England, and I absolutely adore seafood. I couldn’t wait to get into this cookbook. You’d think I’d dive right into a great seafood dish, but that didn’t happen. I received the book a day or two before my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday. She doesn’t care for cake, but she loves cheesecake, so I had given her the option this year of either buying her a classic New York Cheesecake, or we could make one together. She opted for the two of us to make one and this cookbook happened to have a recipe for Fancy New York Cheesecake. It had to stay in the oven longer than the recipe called for, but the results were more than worth it. It was amazing!! She’s already asked that we make it again next year for her birthday. Actually, I think it was more along the lines of every year until she leaves home!

So, surely the seafood came next! Nope. Though it was calling my name, it was time for holiday baking. With multiple neighbors to make plates of baked goods for, we had to get hopping. While browsing this book, I ran across the Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies. Ahhh! Hazelnuts are my favorite nut…well, they probably tie with pistachios. I knew I had to try them. These little gems are keepers!! Everyone who tried them loved them. It’s just going to make it that much harder on me that hazelnuts are only available around the holidays here. Sigh!

We also made the Dr. T’s Date & Bacon Appetizer, though we stuffed some of them with a whole almond, and some with a small stick of Asiago cheese. They are so delicious!

Okay, I’m going to make some seafood!! I decided to go with a classic…clam chowder. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill here. If you are a novice cook or have never made clam chowder before, I do NOT recommend you starting with this recipe! I don’t know if she was assuming people had made it before and so everything didn’t have to be listed or stated, but ingredients and steps in the recipe were just completely missing!! I had to posit from common sense and past experience to get a decent pot out of this. It didn’t end there. The more I looked through the book, the more issues I found. The picture for the Seafood Fettuccini (which is also one of the photos on the front cover) doesn’t match the recipe. It looks like the fish is coated with something, but there is nothing in the recipe about coating the fish. In fact, the directions for cooking the fish itself are fairly vague. It also shows chopped tomatoes in the photo, but they are nowhere in the recipe or ingredient list.

While this cookbook was not exactly everything I had hoped for, it is still a pretty good cookbook. It’s worth it for the cheesecake and Hazelnut Shortbread Cookie recipes!!

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

French Country Cooking by Francoise Branget

French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

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French Country Cooking is such an interesting cookbook. It's divided by region, not by recipe type, so if you're looking for something specific, the index is your friend. The recipes reflect the "country" aspect with recipes such as Lamb's Feet and Stomach Parcels (which has two recipes from two different regions), Beef Stew in Beer, Boulogne Fisherman's Chowder, and Alsation One-Pot Baked Dinner where the ingredients (which include pigs feet and tails) are sealed into the earthenware casserole by a layer of dough around the rim which seals it well. You can also find more decadent recipes such as Fondue in a Fourme de Montbrison which is a fondue made from and in a whole 4 lb wheel of Fourme de Montbrison cheese, Gratin of White Asparagus or Filet Mignon with Brie.

I've heard of Breton Apple Cake and couldn't wait to try it. Unfortunately, it did NOT turn out well at all. It had to cook nearly twice as long as called for, and the texture was...interesting. I read the recipe repeatedly to make sure I had not missed any ingredients or steps, but I followed it perfectly. The Gougeres (Cheese Puffs), however, were amazing!! They were a huge hit with the entire family and they are clamoring for me to make them again soon!

There is much to love in this book, and some things that are interesting but will never be cooked. The fact that they're at least interesting, though, says much about the book. If you're looking for classic, French country cooking, I think this could be a good book for you.

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