May 25, 2013

"Sicily" by the Editors of Phaidon

SicilyMy rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Bella Sicilia!! This is an amazing, gorgeous cookbook!! Not just a cookbook, though, as it is divided into regions and includes information and history on Sicily, each region, and many of the main ingredients. Sicily is a place that is close to my heart, and this book was a feast for my eyes and soul as well as my stomach! So many of my favorites are here, including probably my favorite Sicilian "street food" of all time, Arancini. Now, the recipe here is for the classic version with a meat sauce in the middle. My favorite arancini have Pecorino (not the aged Pecorino Romano, but a young, softer Pecorino such as my favorite "Primo Sale" or you could use a "Pecorino Toscana", etc), prosciutto and sometimes mozzarella in them instead. It's easy to do that with this recipe, though as you just chop the ingredients up and either replace the filling with the cheese and meat, or even just mix the cheese and meat into the rice mixture. Delicioso!!

Gelato, Sfinci (kind of like an Italian version of a donut, but so much better!! You can also roll them in cinnamon sugar or dust with powdered sugar, which is how we had them, instead of using the syrup if you're in a bit of a hurry.), Cannoli--this version is a little different with candied pumpkin and rum, Panelle (chick-pea fritters) and so many more favorites are included here!

I have found many new recipes I'm dying to try such as Farsumagru (Stuffed veal), Pasticcio di Pollo (Chicken Pie--it has pistachios and almonds in it!), and Gamberi e Capperi (Prawns/shrimp with capers) to name just a few. I love how this book highlights the fact that, though most people immediately think of heavy pasta dishes when they think of Italian or Sicilian food, it is so much more than that! I cook Sicilian a lot, and it's much more about fresh ingredients usually prepared in a simple way to let the flavors shine through. Lots of seafood, vegetables and fruit are eaten, with some pasta and lovely desserts thrown in for fun. This is Sicilian cuisine at its finest. When I am missing Sicily and longing to be there again, this is definitely a book I will be pulling out to immerse myself in while smelling the citrus and ocean scented breezes mingled with incredible food making me feel like I'm at home.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review. I received no pressure for a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

May 24, 2013

"The Muffin Tin Cookbook" by Brette Sember

The Muffin Tin Cookbook: 200 Fast, Delicious Mini-Pies, Pasta Cups, Gourmet Pockets, Veggie Cakes, and More!My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Who doesn't like cute little one-hand dishes? Everything from muffins to meatloaf and puddings to potatoes are made in muffin tins. Recipes call for either mini, regular or jumbo tins.

As the mother of four children, I enjoy making food fun for them and what's more fun than little individual dishes? We've had fun with this cookbook. We had the Chicken Florentine Meatloaf for supper the other night. I had ground turkey instead of chicken, but we all know they are interchangeable. It was a huge hit with the kids. What a great way to get some good spinach in them!! I myself hate regular cooked spinach, so I won't force my kids to eat it. I love being able to incorporate it in a dish that they love, though, and this one worked great. My third child just had her 11th birthday, so for her birthday breakfast I made the Baby Dutch Babies. I didn't have the strawberries, so I just sprinkled with powdered sugar and chocolate sprinkles and they were demolished in short order. We had company last night, and I made the Mini Yorkshire Puddings to go with the pork chops and potatoes and, once again, they were a big hit.

This is not a cookbook for food snobs by any means. You're not going to find exotic ingredients and intricate processes, but who wants to cook that way all the time? This is a fun, easy cookbook great for casual entertaining, people with kids or people who just like fun food.

I received a copy of this cookbook from Adams Media for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

May 19, 2013

"The Yankee Chef" by Jim Bailey

The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every KitchenMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

This is a lovely cookbook! We spent some time in New England a couple of years ago and fell in love, so I couldn't wait to dive in to this cookbook. "The Yankee Chef" is full of lovely recipes from the region with a healthy sprinkling of foreign recipes in honor of New England's diverse heritage. Boston Baked Beans, New England Boiled Dinner, Clam Bake, Fried Clams, Seafood Stuffing, Codfish Cakes, Maine Blueberry Pie, Red Flannel Hash and, of course, Whoopie Pies! I only had one real issue with this book. In multiple recipes he states that the authentic recipe is more involved, so he's giving you a shortcut by using something else instead. I wish he would have included the instructions for those of us who would like to go the extra mile to make it authentic.

Not only is this book overflowing with scrumptious recipes, it is a feast for the eyes as well. Lovely photos (though a few more of the finished dishes would have been nice), reprints of very old recipes that look like decoration on the page until you realize it's an actual old recipe!, tips and comments add to this book making it a gem for your collection.

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

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"The South African Illustrated Cookbook" by Lehla Eldridge

The South African Illustrated CookbookMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

This is a small, slim paperback book that is so cute and filled with interesting recipes. Chapters are Soups & Starters, Salads, Fish, Mains, Poultry, Side Dishes, Desserts and Baking. Including the index, the book is only 80 pages long, but what they pack in the 80 pages! I love the illustrations and the tidbits of information and history on the recipes. The recipes themselves are very different. I removed a star for the difficulty in finding quite a few of the ingredients. I have long loved trying foods from all different countries, so this little book definitely finds a place on my shelf! It was so interesting seeing the influences of different countries, available foods and ways of life on the recipes. That is what makes international cookbooks so fascinating to me. It's like a little slice of their lives put in a book for us to read, ponder and sample. There is much to sample in this little book, and I definitely recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from International Publishers Marketing, Inc for Alison & Busby Ltd. for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

"Dishing Up Maine" by Brooke Dojny

Dishing Up Maine: 165 Recipes That Capture Authentic Down East FlavorsMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

A few years ago, my family spent several weeks in Maine, and I fell in love.  It was early October, the scenes were gorgeous, the people friendly and the food fantastic. I could not WAIT to get my hands on this cookbook! While there is an abundance of scrumptious recipes, I was so terribly disappointed in the dearth of seafood chowder/stew recipes. There are a few for a specific ingredient (haddock, mussels, lobster, etc), but only one for a mixed seafood stew, and that was Mediterranean Seafood Stew. If I want a Mediterranean dish, I'll go to a Mediterranean cookbook. In a Maine cookbook, I want MAINE foods!! While in Maine we happened by chance upon the Rockland Cafe in Rockland, ME where I had an unbelievably wonderful seafood chowder loaded with haddock, lobster, crab, clams, scallops and shrimp. I realize their recipe is a closely guarded secret, but I was hoping for something along that line--a good traditional mixed seafood chowder--only to be severely disappointed.

On the bright side, this book is filled with wonderful recipes, great tips, facts and stories as well as truly gorgeous photos. Honestly, it's a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, but I did come away with the feeling that it was more a cookbook of what people expect from Maine than a truly "Mainah" cookbook. Don't let that dissuade you from trying these great recipes. The Broiled Herb-Crumbed Sea Scallops are calling my name right along with the Shaker Chicken Stew with Scallion Dumplings, Pan Roast of Fish and Shellfish, Rustic Summer Berry Croustade (You HAVE to see the photo on this one! I wanted to dive right in!!), and Carding Brook Farm Scalloped Tomatoes with Garlic Crumbs. Let's get cooking!!

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

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May 14, 2013

"Austrian Desserts" by Toni M. Morwald

Austrian Desserts: The Austrian Pastry CookbookMy rating: 3 of 5 spoons

Austria has long been known for their amazing pastries, strudels, tortes...the list goes on. Toni Morwald and Christoph Wagner have put together a cookbook of over 400 recipes for Austria's amazing desserts.

My mouth waters as I browse through this thick book of yummy sounding recipes. Classic Coffee Cake, Raspberry Yogurt Schnitten, Torta Meringa, Kolaches, Apple Strudel...oh, my! I'm getting hungry! This book is definitely not for the budget concious, though. Multiple sticks of butter, crazy amounts of eggs (whether whole eggs, yolks, whites or combinations of them) and many hard-to-find or pricey ingredients make up many these recipes. This is not a book I will be jumping into often, but would be great for special occasions. I really appreciated the chapter "Snacking Doesn't Have to be a Sin" which took great recipes and by changing them up a little made them healthier.

There were some issues with the book. A few of the Austrian names are explained, but many are not and since there aren't a whole lot of pictures of finished ingredients, it kind of leaves you guessing. That brings us to the second problem. Instead of pictures with the recipes, there are some scattered throughout the book, but most do not have a picture. What makes it worse is that there are pictures all throughout the book of stuff like a cookie cutter filled with flaked coconut, poppy seeds, half a fig, etc. Many are repeated at least once. If some of that space had been taken and used for pictures of the actual finished recipes, it would have improved this book.

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

"One Pot, One Bowl" by Kim McCosker

4 Ingredients One Pot, One Bowl: Rediscover the Wonders of Simple, Home-Cooked MealsMy rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Home cooked meals were never more easy!! 80+ recipes for everything from Little Cheddar Pies to French Lamb Casserole, French Onion Soup, Deep Pan Pizza, Apple Crumble, Key Lime Pie and many more.

Yes, these are simple dishes, and that is the point. This is great for those with limited cooking skills or just limited time. One great thing, is that a lot of these can be used as starting points. For instance, I made the Little Cheddar Pies (except I made 2 regular pies instead of 12 mini ones). The taste was good and the consistency was silky smooth. We really enjoyed it, and I'm already thinking of new ways to invent this. I almost threw some chopped portabella mushrooms and spinach in, but I wanted to make it like it was written first. I'll definitely be making this again with variations. The recipe "A Tuscan Love Story"--a simple tomato, butter, onions and pasta--is simmering on the stove now. Once again, there are so many ways you can go with this simple recipe and it will taste different every time! There are so many recipes in the book that I can't wait to cook. I definitely recommend it.

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

May 4, 2013

"Simply Delicious Amish Cooking" by Sherry Gore

Simply Delicious Amish Cooking: Recipes and Stories from the Amish of Sarasota, FloridaMy rating: 3 of 5 spoons

Unbeknownst to many folks outside the Amish Mennonite population in America, Pinecraft, Florida---a village tucked away in the heart of Sarasota---is the vacation paradise of the Plain People. Unlike any other Plain community in the world, this village is a virtual melting pot of Amish and Mennonites from around the world, intermingled with people, like author Sherry Gore's family, who live there year-round. Gore has put together a cookbook that represents the people who make Pinecraft unique. Interspersed with the recipes are true-life stories about births, engagements, weddings, deaths, funerals, celebrations, wildlife encounters, and accidents told through years of Sherry's Letters from Home column published in The Budget, the Amish newspaper.i>

Simple, family and faith focused book of recipes from a village in Florida. Everything from bread to barbecue sauce, salads, homemade dressings, fried chicken, sunburst lemon cookies and even alligator stew!! I particularly enjoyed the "This 'n That" section in the back with recipes for soft pretzels, taffy, yogurt and strawberry jelly among other things. Nice little cookbook that I could see myself using fairly often.

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

"Hampton Weekends" by Ellen Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Entertaining is made easy in this beautiful full-color cookbook from Ellen Wright. She shares great recipes along with insights to make entertaining as simple, elegant, and delightful as possible. Complete meals for every occasion are carefully planned to make it easy on the host/hostess.

Most people hear "The Hamptons" and think of the rich and privileged. It was so nice to dip into this book and find real recipes using common ingredients that anyone can enjoy and not a buch of pretentious recipes filled with hard to find ingredients. The recipes sound so incredibly scrumptious, too!

There are great tips with each recipe for everything from NOT using an electric mixer on her chocolate frosting to things you can make in advance to how to tweak the recipe for someone who is lactose intolerant. The recipes are mostly simple with a few more complicated recipes such as Beef Bourguignonne. There is a good index in the back, and a glossary of wineries on the East end of Long Island if you're interested in that sort of thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and would recommend it to anyone who likes to entertain. Menus based on the season throughout with lovely recipes. How can you go wrong?

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

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May 2, 2013

"Bean by Bean" by Crescent Dragonwagon

Bean by Bean: A Cookbook: More Than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans!My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I am a Southern gal that grew up on beans. Pinto beans and cornbread were absolute staples in our house. We grew--and ate--all kinds of beans. Some I loved and some I would be happy to never see again. Beans are so healthy and such a great source of protein that I am incorporating more of them into my family’s diet after several years of not cooking them very often, so I was so excited to dive into this book. I must say, the cover is very deceiving. It portrays all kinds of dried beans, but the bean that seems to get the most attention from the author is actually green beans with nearly 30 recipes that use them. You only get 6 recipes each for Great Northern or Pinto beans, which was a disappointment as I love cooking with both of those and was hoping for recipes for new dishes.

I cannot wait to make several of the recipes including "All-Day Baked Beans" and "Red Bean Stew", but there really isn’t a huge amount of recipes I will use. Some of the recipes have a crazy amount of ingredients, or odd combinations that do not sound appetizing to me. Many recipes have ingredients that you will only be able to find online or in a large city or someplace like Whole Foods, so that could be a definite issue for some people. I was disappointed that, though she included two different recipes for cornbread, both contained sugar. I don't need a recipe for cornbread as I've been making it from scratch since I was 12, but not everyone knows how to make it, and not everyone likes sweet cornbread. I didn’t realize this was primarily a vegetarian based cookbook, so I wasn’t expecting quite so much tofu, either. That really cuts down on the number of recipes I’ll cook as we don’t eat tofu.

There is a “Bean Basics” section in the front of the book, and a very nice glossary “Basic Beanery” covering all the different types of beans and their origin & characteristics, soaking & cooking, availability, substitutes and usage which is nice. Each chapter begins with a little history of that type of cooking. Various notes and tips are scattered throughout the book, some of which try to convince you to switch to non-meat products such as tofu, seitan, etc. but manages to walk a fine line of not seeming judgmental to those of us who like and eat meat. I really appreciated that. This book may not be for everyone, but I think many people could find recipes in this book they would thoroughly enjoy.

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

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