September 30, 2014

Aegean Flavours by Didem Senol

Aegean Flavours: A Culinary Celebration of Turkish Cuisine from Hot Smoked Lamb to Baked Figs
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Luscious, exotic and even decadent are great terms to describe the flavors in this gorgeous cookbook! From 'Pine Nut and Minced Meat Borek' to 'Rump of Lamb Marinated in Molasses and Served with Roast Potatoes with Rosemary', 'Quail with Rosemary and Mushrooms' and 'Baked Figs Stuffed with Honey and Almonds Served with Warm Goat's Cheese', the flavours draw you back to this cookbook over and over again. Over 100 delightful recipes are laid out geographically in this beautifully photographed book.

The only caveat I had with this book is that the recipes are all written in the first person style, i.e. "I slice the red onion into very thin rings and I remove the seeds from the black olives. I either slice the tomatoes thin or quarter them." That gets annoying and/or distracting very quickly. However, that is the only drawback I found in this lovely cookbook, so I highly recommend it.

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

September 29, 2014

Dinner with Mr. Darcy by Pen Vogler

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes inspired by the novels of Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

What delicious, delightful fun!! Calling all Jane Austen fans, this is a great book whether used as a cookbook or a companion to her books.

My mom loves to feed people and is a very giving person. On a visit to my home some months ago, she presented me with a package of beef cheeks which I promptly put in the freezer to keep until I found out what on earth to do with them. She knows I love to cook and to try new things, so she knew this would be something I was interested in. I kept telling myself that I needed to find a good recipe and pull them out and cook them. Imagine my delight and surprise when I found the recipe for 'Braised Beef Cheek' in this book! Not really knowing what to expect, I dove right in. The directions were so clear and easy to follow that pretty soon it was simmering in my oven. Now, my kids are not the most adventurous eaters in the world, but even they thoroughly enjoyed this dish! I was a little nervous about the allspice--NOT a spice I would normally use in a meat and vegetable dish--but it just gave it a light flavor on the back end of the bite that was very pleasant. The beef cheeks were fork tender and I would definitely make this again!!

Make your own 'White Soup' as they did for the Ball at Netherfield in Pride & Prejudice, or 'Plum Cake' from Mrs. Weston's wedding in Emma. The recipes are easy to follow and there aren't many hard-to-find ingredients that a substitute hasn't been given for.

Anyone who loves Jane Austen, or wants food from that period should love this book. I find it delightful and highly recommend it!

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

French Roots by Jean-Pierre Moulle

French Roots: Two Cooks, Two Countries, and the Beautiful Food along the Way
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

This is a charming combination of memoir and cookbook. The memoir portions are fun to read, and it feels like you're following right along with them as they hunt wild mushrooms, picnic in the French Pyrenees or just experience French family life. The recipes are fascinating if not always appetizing! I'm sorry, but things like Steak Tartare (there is nothing healthy or even tasty to me about raw meat!!) or duck legs cooked in over a GALLON of duck fat are definitely not going to come out of my kitchen.

There is some great information (I loved the note on Bouquet Garni), but it's obvious that the author lives in an area where he can get pretty much whatever he wants and finances are not an issue. He states that only fresh fish should be used and "if frozen is all you can get, cook something else." I'm sorry, but I happen to love seafood and since I live in Tennessee, there's not a lot of fish I can get that's really fresh. I'm not going to stop cooking fish simply because I don't have access to fresh fish. If I am blessed to someday live where I can get fresh seafood then I'll happily cook it instead. Until that day, I'm going to do the best I can with what I have.

There are so many great recipes in this book. Summer Vegetables in Terra-Cotta, Baked Mussels with Saffron and Cream, and Porcini Omelet to name a few. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. The Pizza Dough recipe for the Onion Tart with Anchovies, Olives and Thyme does not have enough liquid. I had to add a good tablespoon of water to it. That could have something to do with altitude, type of flour or other variable. Also, it only makes a 10-inch flat bread, so having it rise for 12-18 hours seems a bit much.

This is a beautiful book with a good quality binding and gorgeous photos. It would have been nice to have more photos of the actual dishes and less photos such as the one with someone's feet and a small basket of figs, a fern lined basket with mushrooms inside or the author gathering firewood. The Summer Vegetables in Terra-Cotta, for instance, talks before the recipe about the importance of slicing the vegetables the same size an how much better effect it has. It would have been nice to include a photo to show that effect.

If you are trying to eat remotely healthy, this probably is not the cookbook for you. Lots of heavy cream, cheese, fat and more makes my arteries harden just reading it! If you love France, French food, or deep flavor--well, then I would definitely recommend this book.

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

September 27, 2014

Bean Pot & Supper Review

I recently made some New England Baked Beans and was wishing for an old-fashioned bean pot.  I made do with a cast iron pan, but decided to take the plunge and buy a bean pot.  I did a lot of research and settled on the  R & M International 4.5 Quart Large Ceramic Bean Pot from Amazon.  I wanted a large pot, and this one fit in my budget.  I LOVE my bean pot!  The beans cooked beautifully, and the handles make it easy to get in and out of the oven.  There are some complaints about the lid handle being hard or impossible to use to get the lid off, but I just used a pot holder and was careful and didn't have any problems.  I highly recommend this pot! Here is the link:  4.5 Qt Bean Pot.

 My first attempt at some classic New England style baked beans were okay, but not overly impressive.  I did a lot of research and found that there are a myriad of variations to the classic recipe, so I ended up creating my own.  

Baked Beans

1 lb dried navy beans

¼ to ½ pound salt pork

1 small onion, sliced

⅓ cup molasses

1 T brown sugar

1 T mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Make sure you get a piece of salt pork with as much meat on it as possible.  Soak beans overnight.  Place in a large pot with plenty of water to cover.  Add the rind of the salt pork and cook until the skins burst.   Slice the onion and roughly chop the salt pork.

Put a layer of onions on the bottom of the pot, followed by half of the salt pork and then half of the beans.


Repeat.  Drain the beans reserving the liquid.  In a cup of the liquid, whisk together the molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt & pepper.


Pour over the beans, then add more cooking liquid until you can see liquid through the beans.
Bake at 250 for four to six hours. Taste after three or four hours and adjust seasonings at that point.

I actually added a little too much water to mine.  If I had cooked them awhile longer, I think they would have gotten thicker like my husband prefers, but they were still wonderful!

 Of course, the traditional accompaniment to baked beans is Boston Brown Bread.  This was my first ever attempt at this steamed bread, but I scoured the internet for a recipe.  Now, personally, I think you should be able to improvise as the need arises.  I was fresh out of straight cornmeal, so I substituted semolina flour.  I also didn't have a metal coffee can to steam it in, so I used a small metal bowl instead. 

After mixing up the ingredients, I poured them in the metal bowl and tied the foil on tight before starting the steaming process.   I'm very happy how it turned out!  You can find this recipe at

I wasn't sure what my kids would think of this meal (the first time I made baked beans it was a mixed review, and the Indian Pudding wasn't a favorite either), but it was unanimously declared a hit.

I love my bean pot and will be using it--and the above recipes--again and again.

I was not paid in any way for this review.  I simply wanted to share my experience with this bean pot and my recipe.  Hope you enjoyed it!

September 25, 2014

Carina Contini's Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Carina Contini

Carina Contini's Kitchen Garden Cookbook: A Year of Italian Scots Recipes
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

I surprised my kids this morning with homemade pancakes using the recipe for 'Nona Olivia's Pancakes', and they were a big hit. My husband even voted the recipe a keeper! The recipe said it served four, and I was serving five, so I doubled it thinking we'd have a few left over. Umm, probably shouldn't have done that! I had at least twice as many pancakes as I needed, but my kids are happy to have leftover pancakes for breakfast tomorrow!

I'm not a huge fan of books set up by month as what is in season say during July in one area might be in season in June or August somewhere else. However, that is just a personal preference. Also, while it talks about what fruits or vegetables are in season, it also goes by meats as well. For instance, January says "In season we have cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, chard, pheasant, partridge, red deer, haddock, cod, whiting and pears." There are cook's notes in the beginning of the book as well as the history of her garden, and growing notes throughout the book. It is also to be noted that the author lives in Scotland, so here in America some things are harder, if not impossible to find such as langoustines.

The author is Scottish, but her father was Italian. This makes for some interesting Scots/Italian recipes such as 'Broad Bean, Pea & Ham Pasta' and 'Cooked Cream with Rhubarb Compote & Toffee Brittle' which is actually an indulgent 'Panna Cotta'. I love how she integrated both heritages into her food.

I really like this cookbook. It's beautiful, well made with an abundance of delightful recipes. While there are some that either don't appeal to me or I don't have access to the ingredients, there are many, many more that have my taste buds salivating! I highly recommend this cookbook to all.

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

September 24, 2014

Singapore Cooking by Terry Tan

Singapore Cooking: Fabulous Recipes from Asia's Food Capital
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

This is a beautiful, fascinating, well-thought-out cookbook. It begins with some history and information, then sort of a dictionary (with pictures which is great!) of Singapore ingredients, before moving on to a section called 'Marinades, Chutneys, Sambals and Achars' which also includes recipes for making your own curry powders (there's more than one) and Garam Masala Spice Mix. From there it moves on to 'Snacks, Soups and Salad', "Breads, Rice and Noodles', Chicken and Duck', 'Seafood', 'Meat', 'Vegetables' and finishes with 'Desserts'. There are lovely photos of the dishes, and the recipes are clear and easy to follow. You will want to have a good specialty food store nearby for ingredients such as pandanus leaves and juice, fresh cardamom pods, fish cake and fresh tumeric root.

I am intrigued by these dishes as they are very different from what I'm used to eating. I'm hoping to make Curry Puffs in the near future. I love the Quick Rice with Chicken and I can't wait to try the Bergedel Potato Fish Cakes. I also want to make up the spices to have on hand over time, I just have to get a couple of the spices (like fenugreek seeds) that I'm missing.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and highly recommend it to anyone. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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

Tout Hache by Jaqui Small LLP

Tout Hache: Meatballs, Tartares, Burgers
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I'm sitting here munching on Salmon Fishballs as I write this review. Oh, my! These are amazing! I do recommend mincing the onions and celery instead of just chopping them as they're still a bit too crunchy/raw, but the flavors are wonderful! I'll definitely be making these again! Other than my 5-year-old, everyone else in the house loved them.

The book starts off with techniques, which is really nice, before it moves on to the recipes. There are not a huge amount of recipes in this book--only around forty-five recipes total--including six sauce recipes, five sides and one dessert (truffles). Eight are for tartares, so I will not be using those (I'm sorry, but I just don't eat raw meat!), but there are some fascinating recipes included. From Herby Veal Meatballs to Fish Burgers to Cottage Pie, there is a nice variety of flavors. I can't wait to try the Chicken Meatballs with Sesame and the Italian Veal Burgers. I do recommend this cookbook. While it may not be a thick cookbook with tons of recipes, the recipes are interesting and the book is good quality with gorgeous color photos.

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

September 23, 2014

Patio Pizzeria by Karen Adler

Patio Pizzeria: Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads on the Grill
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Calling all pizza lovers! If you love to grill, that's just a bonus!! This is a lovely collection of recipes for not just pizza, but also flatbreads, bruschetta, panini, calzones and more. I actually took the basic pizza dough and made a rolled stromboli and it was a huge hit. From a classic Margherita to Gorgonzola Dolce Pizza with Fingerlings and Radicchio, it's all here. Try one of the many combinations in the book, or just use it as a starting point and experiment on your own. If you're looking for dessert, they're in here too. The Brioche Bruschetta with Dark Chocolate and Fleur De Sel--well, you'll just have to try it yourself!

This is not just a book of recipes, though. There is so much usable information from "gas or charcoal?" to pizza grilling temperatures (which vary depending on how you want it to look, and what the pizza is sitting on) to the best melting cheese (which includes HOW they melt--stretchy and stringy, flowing cheese, or cheese that holds it's shape). This is a great book, and I highly recommend it.

Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte

Gastronomy of Italy - Revised Edition
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

This book is a gem! I adore Italian food, and this is now my go-to book for Italian cooking terms and ingredients. This is not just a dictionary of Italian terms or word, though. Arranged in alphabetical order (by Italian, not English), this gives you the Italian word, the English word, then the definition. However, it's much more than just a definition--bits of information, history and more are here at your fingertips. From abbacchio (baby lamb) to zuppa inglese (custard and cake dessert), all you need to know about Italian cuisine is here!!

One nice touch is a small spoon at the end of an entry indicates that a recipe for that dish or style of dish is included. The page number is bracketed after the spoon. For instance, under the entry for salmi (a cooking method), it shows you that a recipe using that method is 2 pages over. Regions of Italy, cooking methods, ingredients, and more are all covered in this amazing tome.

A lovely combination of lexicon and cookbook, there are about 200 great recipes in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the Stuffed Mussels, and Bruschetta col Pomodoro makes a refreshing appetizer. The Stewed Lentils are quite nice and reminded me of the simple yet delicious food of Sicily. I can't wait to try the Tiramisu, the Fresh Egg Pasta and the Stewed Venison among many others. I highly recommend this book for cooks and Italiphiles everywhere.

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

September 17, 2014

The Food of Myanmar by Claudia Saw Lwin Robert

The Food of Myanmar: Authentic Recipes from the Land of the Golden Pagodas
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

"The Food of Myanmar" is well worth it just for the first 35 pages of history, information, cooking techniques and guide to a typical Myanmar pantry. The early recipes cover dips, sauces, pickles and other condiments. From there it covers Appetizers, Rice, Soups & Noodles, Salads, Fish & Shellfish, Meat & Poultry, Vegetables and Desserts. The recipes are varied and fascinating, but if you don't have a good Asian grocery nearby, you might have trouble actually cooking them. There is an interesting array of ingredients that if you're not very familiar with Asian cooking might be new to you or hard to find such as roasted pea flour, curry leaves (you can buy curry powder around here, but I've never seen the leaves), lephet (fermented tea leaves--if you want to make them yourself, be prepared to wait 6 months before you can use them!), dried fermented soya bean cake or dried lablab beans. Some have substitutions listed such as cilantro leaves for saw-leaf herb, but many do not. The instructions are clear, and there are beautiful full-color photographs.

If you are looking for authentic Burmese food, look no further--just make sure you have a source for the harder-to-find ingredients.

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

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Southern Revival
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

So much more than 'just' a cookbook, "The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook" is filled with stories and history, some that just make you laugh out loud! I love the tidbits at the beginning of the recipes. Some of us ladies were chatting during potluck at church Sunday about dressing vs. stuffing, and I had to share from this book. All the Southerners fully agreed that it's cornbread dressing (NOT stuffing) and it never goes inside the bird!

There are so many great recipes in this book, many of which I grew up on. I love Chess Pie and while this recipe will make a good pie, I recommend switching the tablespoon of flour to cornmeal (straight cornmeal, not the cornmeal mix) and adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I know, I know. Vinegar in a pie? Trust me on this one, it's fabulous! So many classic Southern recipes are in here such as Red-Eye Gravy, Apple Salad, Red-Rind Pimento Cheese, Cornbread Dressing and Fried Pies. I grew up on Fried Dried Apple Pies. My mom would dry apples in the summer, and then all through the fall and winter, she would take some out, cook them with her own concoction of spices and sugar and fill the pies with that. Oh, my! Part of me feels like that's the only real fried pie, but part of me is definitely wanting to try her recipe for peach pies! Along with some old favorites are some newer recipes that definitely weren't on our table growing up, but sound great such as Roasted Fennel Mashed Potatoes, Crab-Meat Stuffed Mushrooms, and Watermelon Salad with Feta.

The only drawbacks I found in this book is some of the recipes have a lot of ingredients (for instance, her recipe for sausage gravy has 14 ingredients. I'm a bit of a purist in some things, and this would be one of them. I'm going to pass on all the ground anise, dried mustard, Tabasco, etc and just stick with sausage, oil, flour, salt, pepper and milk. It tastes great!), and too many recipes have alcohol in them. I might occasionally buy a cooking wine at the grocery store, but I don't drink, and I'm not buying beer, tequila, rum, etc. That, however, is a personal thing and does not lower my rating. I'll work around it when I can, and just not make that particular recipe if I can't. Give this book a try. I think you'll be very happy you did!

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

The Cook's Essential Kitchen Dictionary by Jacques Rolland

The Cook's Essential Kitchen Dictionary: A Complete Culinary Resource
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Have you ever been reading a recipe and wondered, "What is that ingredient?" or are you a novice cook that isn't quite sure what some cooking terms are? Have you ever wondered what flageolet, harusame, macerate, nam pla, udon or orgeat was? If so, this is the book for you! From ajowan to tzatziki and clary to vindaloo, cooking ingredients and terms are defined for you in this handy resource. There are nice, boxed sections throughout the book that contain things like varieties of apples, grades of butter, clam varieties, flour types and more. Set up alphabetically, it is easy to find what you're looking for quickly. As someone who loves to try different cuisines, I sometimes come across terms or ingredients I haven't heard of. If you'd have asked me yesterday what Appenzeller was, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. Now I know it is a Swiss cheese that is more "more moist and creamier than Emmental and much more robust than Gruyere"--and now I'd love to try it! I definitely recommend you add this to your bookshelf.

I received a copy of this book from Robert Rose Inc. for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

September 16, 2014

Eating in Maine by Malcolm and Jillian Bedell

Eating in Maine: At Home, on the Town and on the Road
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I love Maine! We spent nearly a month there a few years ago, and I left a little part of my heart there. From the scenery to the food to the people, I loved it all and couldn't wait to get my hands on this book!! Part cookbook and part restaurant reviews and travelogue, this book is filled with great recipes, gorgeous full-color photos, restaurant reviews and lots of little tidbits of information.

I figured if I was going to fully review this cookbook, I HAD to make a lobster dish. Maine is known for it's lobster, and it has a good showing in this book. When I read the recipe for Lobster with Sweet Corn Linguine, I knew I had to make it. I have never cooked or taken apart a lobster before, so that was a little intimidating. That along with the concern that my youngest (okay, actually my oldest as well!) might freak if they saw the lobster alive first, I cheated a little and let them cook it for me at the store. However, now that I've successfully taken one apart, I feel confident that I could do it from scratch next time. This is a wonderful recipe!! My husband and daughters weren't too sure about it, but were willing to try it. I have two that don't like lobster (I know, I don't understand it, either!), but other than that it was a big hit. The flavor was wonderful, like summer on your plate. The crispy corn was such a nice, contrasting texture to the lobster and noodles (I used fettuccine instead of linguine), and of course, butter and lobster are just made for each other!! Other than the cost, I highly recommend this dish. Actually, that is part of what lowered my rating for this book. If you live in Maine and can get lobster for a great price, this is a great cookbook. If you live elsewhere, some of these dishes just aren't doable for people that aren't rich. For instance, there is a recipe for Lobster Macaroni and Cheese that sounds absolutely heavenly, but it calls for 16 oz of lobster meat--approximately FIVE 1 1/4 lb lobsters! Lobster around here has been running $16.99/lb. Even at the sale price of $13.99/lb that I paid, you'd be paying nearly $90 JUST for the lobster meat for this dish!! It sounds amazing, but unless I get to move to Maine, I'll not get to taste it!

There are other great recipes in this book that I can't wait to try. Other than Baci, an amazing hazelnut/dark chocolate candy from Italy, Ferrero Roche candies top my list. Nutella is high on my list as well. Well, if you love these flavors, you're in luck. There is a recipe for Ferrero Roche Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream!! Oh, my! I nearly went into a diabetic coma just reading the recipe--and I'm not diabetic! These are definitely on my "to make" list!! I can't wait to try the Tomato Pie, Brown Butter and Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (yes, that says BACON!), and Spinach and Gruyere Strata. If I can get my hands on some haddock--not a fish I usually find around here--I dearly want to make the Haddock Chowder as well.

One other thing that dropped my rating a bit is that this book is supposed to be about all of Maine, but of the restaurant reviews, the majority are in and around Portland. There are reviews for twenty-five restaurants in Portland. Brunswick has the next highest amount with four, and there are a few with two, but most only have one restaurant reviewed. Bangor's one and only review was for a truck-stop, of all things, and August which is the CAPITOL of Maine, isn't even mentioned! I fell in love with Rockland, Maine while we were there and was tickled that Rockland was included until I found that the two restaurants reviewed from Rockland was a hot dog place and a sushi bar. I had the most amazing seafood chowder EVER at the Rockland Cafe, and was told later that for the area, that was THE place to go for seafood chowder. How disappointing that instead sushi and HOT DOGS were highlighted. If you ever get to Rockland, Maine, go to the Rockland Cafe and order their seafood chowder. Lobster, scallops, clams, haddock, shrimp, etc were heaped up out of the broth, even, and the flavor was amazing!! My husband had the haddock and loved it as well. Take my advice, skip the hot dogs and get some real Maine seafood there!

There are stories and tidbits scattered throughout written by the authors. This is simply a personal preference, but while I find Malcolm to usually be interesting and funny, Jillian more often than not comes over as pretentious and/or simply trying to hard to impress the reader with her writing. I found myself simply skipping portions that she wrote.

If you love Maine, or are perhaps planning a trip there, I highly recommend this book. Just be aware that depending on where you're going, you may not find much to help you on your trip.

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