November 22, 2014

And the winner is......

...Linda Napier!!  Congratulations on your win!  I'll be getting your info privately to send to the publisher and they will send the book directly to you. 

Thanks to everyone who entered!

November 20, 2014

Sri Lankan Cooking by Douglas Bullis

Sri Lankan Cooking
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

"Sri Lanka, the fabled land of sapphires, rubies and other precious stones, is home to one of the least known Asian cuisines" begins this lovely book. Some fascinating history follows this expressive opening from the fact that Sri Lanka used to be called "Ceylon" (see page 16,'Banking on Tea' to learn more about Ceylon tea), to the various influences on its culture and cuisine and so much more. From there it moves into a fascinating array of striking dishes. From Butter Rice to Tamarind Claypot Fish, Coconut and Cashew Nut Chicken, Dhal Stew and Coconut Spice Cake, exotic flavors about. A good Asian grocery nearby would definitely be a plus to this book. While there are substitutions given for some of the more exotic ingredients such as banana blossoms, jaggery, pandanus leaves and more, some of the substitutions aren't necessarily something you'll find at your regular grocery store.

One small issue I had with the book is that only English translations of the recipe name is given. Generic terms like "Curried Meatballs", "Spicy Eggplant" and "Coconut Cinnamon Cashew Slices" are given. It would have been nice to have the Sri Lankan name as well.

This is a beautiful book with a mouth-watering array of dishes to try. I would certainly recommend you give it a try.

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

Orwasher's Artisan Bread by Keith Cohen

Artisan Bread: 100 Years of Techniques & Recipes from New York's Orwasher's Bakery
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I love bread. If it were possible for me to live on bread and cheese I probably would, so I couldn't wait to get this cookbook. Upon reading it, I was left with very mixed feelings.

On the positive side, this book is worth it for the information alone. The actual bread recipes don't even start until about page 115, in chapter five. There is a great assortment of recipes for all kinds of bread and make you want to get started. My mouth watered just looking at the photos and reading the recipes. The instructions are clear, but here we get to the first issue.

ALL the recipe instructions are for using a stand mixer. There are no alternative instructions for doing it by hand. These are very specific instructions as well; x amount of minutes on this speed, then x amount of minutes on this speed. As I don't have a stand mixer at the moment, that presents an interesting dilemma to me. I just have to wing it and do my best to get it right.

The other issue is rather a big one. Page 108 gives the recipe to start the "Mother", which you will need for 3 of the 6 starters; White Rye and Dark Rye and White Starter. It calls for 1 lb of vineyard grapes, destemmed, but not washed (or you will lose the natural yeast on the outside of the grapes), flour and water. How, exactly, does he expect people who live in parts of the country without access to 'vineyard grapes', make this starter? That's it. There are no substitutions given. If you can't make this starter, you basically have lost most of the recipes in the book.

This is a gorgeous book full of amazing looking bread. However, if you want to make most of the breads in it, make sure you can get some vineyard grapes. If you can, enjoy!

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

November 19, 2014

Flour and Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton

Flour and Water: Pasta
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

This may be one of my all-time favorite cookbooks now! I love pasta, but my forays into pasta making in the past have not gone well. Sometimes it was because the recipe was hard to understand, or I was trying to use special equipment that wasn't working right. The recipes are so simple and easy to understand. There are tons of pictures including many step-by-step type photos. I have some semolina pasta resting in my refrigerator right now to make some capellini pasta tomorrow. I've never had a pasta dough come together so smoothly in my life. My daughter was fascinated watching me as my only tool was a fork! I'm in love! There are so many different types of pasta to try, with many that need only tools you would find in a normal kitchen. Yes, you can get special equipment to do fancy shapes, but you don't have to. Hey, I eventually would love to have a chitarra pasta cutter and a corzetti stamp, but for now, I can make plenty of pastas with a knife, crinkle & smooth edge dual cutter, and rolling pin. I'm a happy woman!

Of course, the recipes are not just for making the different pasta types and shapes, there are lots of recipes for everything from a simple pesto to Squid Ink Chitarra with Sea Urchin, Tomatoes and Chiles. I can't wait to try Black Pepper Tagliatelle with Mussels, Lardo and Corn. I made a slightly similar dish earlier this year with lobster and corn and it was amazing. I really want to try this one now. I appreciate that if you don't have time to make homemade pasta, each recipe gives you a store-bought option.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I've enjoyed every aspect of it from just reading through it, to enjoying the photos and, finally, cooking from it myself. This is a great cookbook that I'm sure to return to again and again.

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.

Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan

Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I have a fairly small kitchen, so I don't really do large batch preserving. This book is perfect for me! Small amounts of scrumptious goodies from Honey Sweetened Strawberry Jam to Caramelized Onion Spread with Sage are perfect for small kitchens. Another great thing about the small batches, is being able to try something new without being stuck with a huge batch if you don't like it! I've seen interesting looking recipes in other preserving cookbooks that I just wasn't willing to put that amount of time and even money for all the ingredients as I didn't know if any of us would like it or not. No such problem here, and if you do like something, it would be simple to double or triple most recipes for larger batches. I really want to try the Rosemary Apple Jam, and the next times lemons go on sale I'd love to make the Lemon, Parsley and Garlic Salt. It sounds right up my alley!

The recipes are not restricted to canning recipes. You will find things like Whole Wheat Biscuits and Jam-Glazed Chicken Legs as well. There's a little something for everyone.

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

Balinese Food by Vivienne Kruger

Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine & Food Culture of Bali
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I don't know if I'd necessarily call this a cookbook. It's as much a book on the history and culture of Bali as it is about cooking. There is not a huge number of recipes in this book and, let's be frank, some are more about the culture than what a lot of us would consider cooking--Fried Dragonflies or "Holy Water" anyone? Other recipes are quite delightful such as Mixed Rice, or Grilled Ground Chicken in Balinese Spicy Sauce with Fresh Shredded Coconut and even Banana Fritters.

This is a fascinating read on Balinese culture and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in or planning on traveling to Bali. If you're just looking for Balinese food, it may or may not be right for you. There are almost no photos of the dishes, and that is very important to me when I'm trying to cook a totally unfamiliar cuisine. I like to be able to see what it's supposed to look like when I'm finished. Some of the recipes aren't as clear as I'd like, either. One recipe says to grill then young coconut for 5 minutes and then chop into cube sized pieces. Young coconut isn't something I typically cook with so I'm a little stumped. Do you grill it whole? Do you cut it in half and grill it? It's not very clear. There are multiple unfamiliar and hard to find ingredients as well, though there is a resource guide in the back of the book for places to buy Indonesian ingredients.

Overall, while this is a fascinating book, it's probably not one I'll be going back to very often.

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

Cicchetti by Lindy Wildsmith

Cicchetti: Delicious Italian Food to Share
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Anyone who knows me know that Italian food is my passion. I've never had the privilege of visiting Venice, but I was excited to dig into this book and find out more about their cuisine, or at least a portion of it. I knew we were off to a good start immediately when I fell in love with Gratinata di Peoci (Gratin of Mussels). This is classic Italian cuisine. Simple recipe, few ingredients, but emphasis on QUALITY ingredients. For instance, this recipe calls for a tomato, cut in half, de-seeded, drained and cut into tiny dice, but it also tells you to leave it out when they're out of season. Out of season tomatoes just do not have the same flavor, and it will pull down the quality of the dish. Polenta Fritta con lo Stracchino (Deep-fried Polenta Sticks with Stracchino Cheese), Polpettine di Melanzane (Eggplant Patties), Polpettine di Manzo (Beef Meatballs--includes riced potatoes and sopressa or speck. Yum!), and more whet the appetite for Venetian cuisine. Now I need to find a more extensive cookbook on Venetian Cuisine.

But wait! There's more! From Venice we move to the other regions of Italy and sample their goodies. How about Pan-fried Hazelnuts from Abruzzo & Molise, Calabrian Ricotta Pizza, Fish Empanadas from Sardinia or Mini Bread Rolls with Garlic & Anchovies from Tuscany. Ah, and then there's my favorite. Sicily!! I fell in love with Arancini, fried rice balls, on my very first trip to Sicily. Most recipes I find in cookbooks for arancini are for the ones with ragu inside, but my absolute favorites are the ones with mozzarella, pecorino and prosciutto. Included in this cookbook is Arancini di Riso con al Mozzarella (Fried Rice Balls with Mozzarella) which are extremely close. Just add a little pecorino cheese (young pecorino such as Primo Sale, or Pecorino Toscana)and a little chopped prosciutto and there you have it--the best arancini around! Also included are Panelle (Chickpea Fritters) like we ate from the street vendors in Palermo. Delizioso!

This is a gorgeous cookbook full of beautiful, full-color photos, delightful recipes and interesting information on the different cuisines of the different regions of Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to all.

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

Sushi Secrets by Marisa Baggett

Sushi Secrets: Easy Recipes for the Home Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't really like sushi. Gasp! I know, I know. I've barely retained some friendships over this, and it must seem crazy for me to review a cookbook on nothing but sushi. However, I have a 12-year-old daughter who LOVES sushi. I'm not really sure where she got it from, but unless it's loaded with raw fish or insanely spicy, she'll eat it. Because I love her so much, I thought it might be fun to make her 13th birthday extra special and make sushi together. Of course, since I don't care for sushi (I can eat it if I have to, I just don't necessarily enjoy it), it's not exactly in my cooking repertoire. Enter sushi cookbooks! Her birthday isn't until next year, but sushi seems potentially complicated to me, so I wanted to get a good head start.

Let me just start by saying this is a gorgeous book!! Beautiful, full-color photos, a nice hard cover with matching dust jacket and a great sewn binding that lets the book stay open to whatever page you have it at without having to find something to hold it down just shows the quality of this book. Now, on to the recipes.

There's literally something for everyone in this book. It's laid out wonderfully with all the information you need to get started in the beginning of the book. From planning the meal to ingredients, tools, rice, cleaning & cutting the fish and more, everything you need to know to get started is here. From there it moves on to Sauces & Condiments, Appetizers, Sashimi, Pressed, Gunkan & Nigiri Sushi, Thin Rolls, Thick Rolls, Inside Out Rolls, Sushi Bowls, Sushi Hand Rolls and Desserts and Drinks. Speaking of dessert, I can't wait to try the Green Tea Panna Cotta and Sesame Cookies and the Lemon Mango Bars!

I wasn't sure how to do her birthday since she's really the only sushi fan in the family, but there's so much in here that everyone can enjoy from Fragrant Herb and Mushroom Spring Rolls, Japanese Pizza, Barbecued Short Ribs Sushi Bowl and more. When it comes to the sushi itself, I was very pleased with how accessible it is. The instructions are clear and concise with many recipes showing step-by-step photos. We're planning on setting up a sushi "station" so everyone can get involved and help create their own masterpieces. With this book, this now feels completely doable and I'm so excited I can make my daughter's birthday unforgettable!!

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

Chowders and Soups by Liz Feltham

Chowders and Soups: 50 Recipes for the Home
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Cold weather has come earlier than normal to the Southern states this year. The days have been perfect for cozy fires and warming comfort food. This little book of chowders and soups is perfect for this weather! What it lacks in length, it makes up for in content as it is jam packed with luscious soups and chowders to warm the family. It also makes me want to pack up and move to the Canadian Maritimes!

I never realized there were so many chowders in the world! From your basic Clam Chowder, to Caribbean Seafood Chowder, Squid Chowder, Salt Cod and Chickpea Chowder and a Smoked Salmon Chowder that brought back fond memories of my years spent in Alaska, there's something for everyone. If you're not a big seafood fan, there are plenty of other options including Roasted Corn Chowder, Chicken Chorizo Chowder, and Potato and Ham Chowder to name a few. With Thanksgiving on its way, it will be a great time for Homestyle Turkey Soup, designed to use up leftovers. Finish it off with a lovely Chilled Blueberry Soup or Chilled Strawberry Soup with Black Pepper.

There are 50 Recipes in this book and I can honestly say I'd be interested in making at least 35-40 of them. That's a huge percentage, when with many cookbooks, I'm fairly happy if half of the recipes make me want to cook them. This is a great little cookbook that I am happy to recommend!

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

November 18, 2014

Holiday Cookies by Chicago Tribune

Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

It was a dark and stormy....cookie!? No, I've not lost my mind, I've just found my new favorite cookie! Dorie's Dark and Stormies are a decadent chocolate cookie with dark chocolate chunks, and I'm in love! A comfy chair, crackling fire, cup of coffee and one of these cookies (or a whole plate!)...what could be more delightful?

I really love this cookbook. It is full of delicious, prize-winning recipes, gorgeous photos and easy to find information on prep time, chill time, bake time and cooling time. The book is divided into sections: Simple Drop Cookies, Sugar & Spice, Fruit & Nut Treats, Chocolate Delights, Sandwich Cookies and Brownies & Bars. If you're looking for healthy treats for the holiday, you won't find them here. Butter is king in this book. Now, nothing makes a good cookie like real butter, but some of these recipes have as much as a pound of butter in them! (I can see why they won prizes!!) With butter prices the way they are right now, that might curtail a little of my holiday baking--but only a little. There are so many recipes that I love or still want to try from this book. I adore the classic Nut Crescents, Dottie's Mexican Wedding Cookies, classic Shortbread Cookies and Black-Out Cookies. My husband will love the Coffee Toffee, and next on my list is the Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies.

This is a great cookbook to get you in the mood for all that holiday baking. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am happy to recommend it to all. As a little extra, I got permission to include the recipe for the Dark and Stormie cookies! Enjoy!!

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

Dorie’s Dark and Stormies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Prep time: 25 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Bake time: 14 minutes per batch

1¼ cups flour
⅓ cup Dutch process cocoapowder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in small bowl; set aside. Beat the butter until smooth in bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the sugars, vanilla and salt; beat 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated but still crumbly, and being careful not to overwork the dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
2. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface; squeeze it so that it sticks together in large clumps. (If you need to, it’s OK to lightly flour the work surface.) Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Shape each ball into a log 11/2 inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour.
3. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Gently slice logs into 1/2-inch rounds using a serrated knife (some will crumble; simply press broken bits back onto cookie). Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
4. Bake, one sheet at a time, 14 minutes; cookies will not look done or be firm. Cool on pan 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.

Note: Dough can be made ahead and frozen. Frozen dough doesn’t need to be defrosted before baking; just slice logs and bake 1 minute longer. Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen up to a month.

Chicago Tribune recipe for one-time use only in conjunction with reviews or coverage of Holiday Cookies by Agate Publishing and the Chicago Tribune.

November 14, 2014

It's All Greek to Me Blog Tour and Giveaway!!

My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

When I was contacted about possibly reviewing this cookbook and participating in the blog tour, I jumped at the chance. I have absolutely loved every Greek dish I've ever tried, so I knew I really wanted a part of this! As soon as the book arrived, I took a break from everything and spent the next hour curled up on the couch reading and browsing through the book. My list of things I want to make finally just got tossed as it was half the book!

I homeschool my girls and we are currently studying ancient history. One of their assignments was to make lentil stew, a dish very common to that time. They were very excited to find a recipe in "It's All Greek to Me", and set out to make it. Now, they are not exactly fans of lentils. I make them semi-regularly as they are a cheap, healthy dish, but it's definitely not one of their favorites. However, they all actually enjoyed this version which includes carrots, celery and more.

Many of my favorites are in this book from Spanokopita to Tomato, Cumumber and Red Onion Salad, Greek Meatball Soup and of course, there's always Baklava!! Oh, my! Definitely my favorite Greek dessert, I am very pleased to be able to share Debbie's recipe with you!!

Baklava (bah-klah-VAH)

Here is my family’s secret recipe for the best Baklava ever. Rolling it this way, as opposed to baking it in a flat pan, ensures a light flakiness and just the right amount of the honey syrup running throughout. Around the holiday season, when I was growing up, my mom would make big batches of this so that my sister, my brother, and I could give platters of it to our teachers. Needless to say, every new school year, teachers were very excited to see one of the Matenopoulos kids on their class rosters!


11/4 pounds walnuts (about 5 cups), finely chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 (1-pound) package phyllo dough sheets
(13 × 18 inches), thawed (see tip, page 112)
(18 sheets)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup honey
1 (2-inch-wide) piece fresh lemon peel
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
(1 lemon)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon, and set aside.

Working quickly, and keeping the unused phyllo sheets covered, lay out 1 sheet of phyllo on a clean flat surface. Lightly brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter. Cover with a second phyllo sheet and butter. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the top sheet. Repeat this process with 2 more sheets of phyllo and another 1/2 cup of the nut mixture, then again with last 2 phyllo sheets and a final ½ cup of the nut mixture. You will have used 6 sheets of phyllo and 11/2 cups of the nut mixture (3 layers). Starting at the long end (the 18-inch side), gently roll the layered phyllo sheets up into a tight, fat roll. Brush the seam with butter to seal. Repeat the entire process twice more. One package will make 3 rolls.

Using a large, very sharp knife, cut the rolls into 1-inch pieces. Lay the pieces cut side down on 2 large ungreased rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and, using a large spatula or tongs, quickly flip the baklava over. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes more or until cooked through, golden and flaky.

While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Combine all of the syrup ingredients except the lemon juice in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Set it over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 12 minutes, stir in the lemon juice, and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and carefully remove and discard the lemon peel. Let the syrup cool slightly.

Remove the baklava from the oven and slowly pour the warm syrup over pieces on the baking sheets. Let stand 1 hour to soak up the syrup. Transfer to individual cupcake wrappers, if desired, and serve. The baklava will keep, covered loosely, at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Debbie’s Tip: To make a vegan baklava, substitute a vegan butter (like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) for the dairy butter, use maple sugar or organic (vegan) sugar, and omit the honey, if desired. 


I was also able to get a Q&A from Debbie Matenopoulos to share with you all!

“Fall for Greek with Debbie Matenopoulos” Blog Tour Q&A
What was your favorite part about putting this book together? Most challenging?
My favorite part about putting this cookbook together was gathering all of the recipes from my family and translating them into English. There is so much history in these recipes. It was very nostalgic. My mother gave me my grandmother’s hand written recipe books that were written in Greek along with her own. There were pages that were coming out that were obviously worn by the years of being referenced time and time again. I felt as if I was holding our most valuable family heirlooms in my hands. I feel very honored that my entire family was willing to share their treasured recipes with me and allow me to share them with the world.

The most challenging part of writing this cookbook was translating the measurements from the metric system. That was no easy task. As opposed to just going by a chart, I chose to personally re-measure everything just to be certain. I have to admit that this was the one time in my life I wished they had taught us more of the metric system in school. ;)

What 5 items are a must in a well-stocked Greek pantry?
A Greek pantry is NOT a Greek pantry without some very key ingredients. I know you've asked for 5, but there are actually 7 that every Greek kitchen should be stocked with. They are Greek extra virgin olive oil, dried Greek oregano, fresh lemons, fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh tomatoes, and onions. Combined, those ingredients and you have the base of a lot of Greek dishes.

The Mediterranean Diet is high in healthy fats. How do you incorporate heart-healthy oils into your recipes?
It has been proven time and time again that extra virgin olive oil is the most heart healthy of all oils. It is all I have ever used and it is all that my family ever used growing up. Although the smoke point is much lower than it is on other oils, in my opinion, it is still the best way to go when cooking or flavoring any dish. I wouldn't consider cooking with anything else. Extra virgin olive oil has been proven to lower cholesterol and fight heart disease. As a matter of fact, one of the leading cardiologists in the country, Dr. Michael Ozner, wrote the forward to my book and in it, he discusses this very issue. That's why he too believes that the Mediterranean way of eating that I describe in my book is the most healthy way of eating on the planet.

What is your earliest memory of cooking/preparing Greek food?
My earliest memories of cooking are from when I was about 4 years old and are of me being in the kitchen with my mom. I was helping her stir the bechamel for the pastichio or moussaka over the stovetop to make sure it didn’t get too thick. She would pull up a stool for me to stand on and make sure to let me know that my job was very important. She would tell me that getting the pastichio or moussaka exactly right all depended on me making sure I didn't let the bechamel thicken too much. That responsibility made me feel so important and made me so proud when we all sat down to dinner. It truly made me feel like I was an integral part in making this delicious meal. I think that's when I fell in love with cooking.

What message would you like to resonate with your readers/home cooks?
I would like the readers of this blog and the home cooks to not only enjoy the amazing flavors of the Mediterranean cuisine of my ancestors, but also the immeasurable health benefits. And, I’d like them to enjoy this food with their family and loved ones, because after all, food is more than just food to Greeks. To Greeks, food represents love and family. So here’s to you enjoying the deliciousness of this cookbook with your family!! ;)

This book is gorgeous and filled with such lovely recipes that I can highly recommend it to anyone.  I am happy to host a giveaway for your own copy of this beautiful cookbook!  Enter on the Rafflecopter!  (I do apologize that I wasn't able to get it up in time, so it doesn't start until midnight tonight.)  Enjoy!

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

November 7, 2014

Long Nights and Log Fires by Ryland, Peters & Small

Long Nights and Log Fires: Warming Comfort Food for Family and Friends
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

A fire is crackling merrily in the fireplace as I type, and the weather is perfect for this book today! Even the title of this beautiful cookbook makes you feel cozy. Leek and Potato Soup, Slow-Cooked Onion and Cider Soup with Gruyere Toasts, Baked Mushrooms with Manchego Bechamel, Chunky Fish Stew with Cheese Toasts, Winter Vegetable Gratin, Coq au Vin, Toasted Teacakes, Baked mouth is watering and I'm in the mood for comfort food! I was slightly surprised there wasn't a Beef Stew recipe included, just Boeuf Bourguignon. Boeuf Bourguignon is great, but sometimes just a simple, hearty beef stew with lots of vegetables and a nice, thick broth is perfect for those cold nights in front of a warm fire. This oversight caused the book to almost seem to have a hole in it for me, like a page was missing or something.

My girls and I have started "Tea and Tales" once or twice a month on a Friday to discuss a book we're reading together. I think "Toasted Teacakes" will be the perfect accompaniment to our tea for our first meeting today!

This is a beautiful book with gorgeous photos and scrumptious recipes to get us through the fall and winter months. I highly recommend it!

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

International Night by Mark Kurlansky

International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World *Including More than 250 Recipes*
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

There is so much to love about this book! Curl up by the fire and read about the different countries and dishes represented here, or just get in the kitchen and start cooking! I love that along with familiar places such as Greece, Germany and Italy you also have Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Algeria, Aquitaine, Kazakhstan and French Guinea. My girls love the Cornish Pasties, and Fennel Salad from Sicily is quite lovely and simple to make. Try an entire meal from a country or your choice, or pick and choose dishes to make a truly International night! Hmmm, Spatzle from Germany followed by Hazelnut Salad from Switzerland, Pork Adobo from Philippines, Green Beans and Carrots from Haiti followed by Apple Blackberry Pie from Norway. You are only limited by your imagination--and sometimes your pocketbook for some of the more 'exotic' ingredients.

A couple of things dropped the rating of this book. Even a few photos would have been nice (an occasional line drawing of a cabbage, pineapple or other ingredient doesn't do much for me in a cookbook). Also, if you don't read the introductory portion of the book you won't know that all the recipes are configured to feed three people because that's the size of the author's family. NONE of the recipes I could find lists serving size. The author explains this away as his daughter telling him when he does math to shrink or expand a recipe he is "no fun", so he leaves that to his reader. Fine, hire someone to do it for you, then. Having recipes designed for 3 people can be pretty awkward for someone with a family of 4. We have six in our family so I can easily double, but others may have to work more to get an amount that works for them. This just feels very unprofessional to me.

Even with the drawbacks mentioned above, this is a great cookbook full of interesting food. As a homeschool mom, it's also a great tool in school. Instead of just learning about different countries from a book, why not incorporate their cuisine into your studies as well?! With this book we'll get a little extra math in when we double the recipes as well.

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

November 3, 2014

Maritime Fresh by Elizabeth Bailey

Maritime Fresh: Delectable recipes for preparing, preserving, and celebrating local produceMy rating: 5 of 5 spoons

Oh, what fun! I'm not a huge vegetable lover, but this book had me salivating from Apple Butter clear through to Berry Maritime Rumtopf! So many ways to make vegetables! From Eggplant Fries to Scalloped Turnips, I found myself wanting to try them all. I started with a simple Garlic-Fried Brussels Sprouts. I hated Brussels sprouts growing up and only discovered they weren't so bad after all when I was in my thirties. These were delicious and so quick and easy to make. I'm trying the Pecan Brussels Sprouts next! Fresh Tomatoes with Basil and Mozzarella is a long-time family favorite around here. I had never tried it with balsamic vinegar, though.

I love that this cookbook runs the gamut of super simple and easy with very few ingredients such as Kale Chips to more involved and adventurous, like Red Curry Shrimp and Cabbage. Emphasis is on fresh, quality ingredients, and that shows in the final dish.

Maritime Fresh is a beautiful cookbook full of gorgeous, full-color photos printed on a nice, heavy paper. It's fun to browse through and cook from, and I know I'll be returning to it again and again.

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