January 29, 2015

Dishing Up New Mexico by Dave DeWitt

Dishing Up® New Mexico: 145 Recipes from the Land of Enchantment
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I'll let you in on a secret. Hot peppers and I do NOT get along. I've never been one to like my taste buds burnt off (I like to TASTE my food, and if my mouth is on fire, I'm not tasting anything!), but I had no problem using small amounts of hot peppers occasionally. I decided to make some stuffed pepper with Anaheim peppers (these are NOT considered hot peppers!) and spent the next 6-8 hours in agony with my hands on fire from cleaning and de-seeding them! That was a couple of years ago, so I'm just now getting to the point of being willing to work with peppers again--albeit with gloves, this time!--so I was thrilled at the opportunity to review this book. I'm still a little gun (or pepper) shy, so I haven't got into making my own chili sauce's yet, but I'm getting there!

Starting small with Grilled Green Chile Polenta, can I just say YUM! On a nice, cold day nothing beats a great bowl of soup, so I decided to make the Creamy Green Chile-Chicken Soup for supper. While I was making it, I started to have my doubts. There was no seasoning other than the green chiles, a LITTLE salt, white pepper and oregano. (Note: I was not ready to dive into roasting and chopping my own chilies like the recipe called for, so I used a large can of diced green chiles in its place.) Ah, you should not doubt this gem of a recipe. It was AMAZING!! My oldest daughter’s first comment was, “You didn’t make enough of this!” Now, this does have a little spice to it if you’re not into spicy foods, but it is so worth it! I didn’t even offer it to my youngest as she is unable to deal with ANY spiciness, and it my 12 year old daughter didn’t finish hers as she said it was too spicy, but the rest of us loved it!

This is a great cookbook with some amazing recipes in it. You should give it a try!

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

January 12, 2015

Food, Family and Tradition by Lynn Kirsche Shapiro

My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

This is part cookbook, part memoir and completely inspiring. What began as finishing her father's autobiography and publishing her mother's recipes ended up as a lovely cookbook and a tribute to all Holocaust survivors. Pull up a chair and prepare to be inspired by this delightful book!

I love the layout of this book. It begins with the family's story and has sections on everything from kosher wines to Jewish holidays. The recipe section has lovely tidbits sprinkled throughout--everything from photos to traditions, stories and remembrances. As for the recipes themselves, you will find everything from Latkes (see below) to Poached Salmon, Candied Carrots, Brisket, Boiled Tongue, Israeli Salad, Traditional Potato Kugel, Cheese Danish and Baked Apples.

Surprisingly enough, I had never actually made latkes before, so I decided to try my hand at them. They turned out quite nicely, though grating them is rather labor intensive. If I make them again, I’ll probably use the food processor.

This is a lovely cookbook that is as interesting to read as it is to cook from. I definitely recommend it!

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

They may not be the prettiest, but they are yummy!

Potato Latkes

4 med russet potatoes*
2 lg eggs
½ t salt, or to taste (mine needed more salt)
1/8 t freshly grated black pepper, optional
Vegetable oil as needed for frying

Grate the potatoes into a medium bowl using the second finest side of a box grater, or use the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Chop potatoes into chunks; grate finely by pulsing, but do not puree.

Transfer potatoes and their juices to a medium bowl. Add the eggs and salt. Add pepper if using.

In a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat ¼ inch of oil. When a drop of water sizzles and evaporates immediately, the pan is hot. Drop latke batter by ¼ c ladles or large spoon carefully into the frying pan. Fry on one side until edges are crispy and golden; about 3 minutes. Turn once and fry until cooked through and crispy on the other side.

Transfer latkes to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat using remaining batter, adding more oil if necessary.

*A medium russet potato is 2¼ by 3¼ inches. If the potatoes are very large, use 1 egg per potato.

Complete Book of Indian Cooking by Suneeta Vaswani

Complete Book of Indian Cooking: 350 Recipes from the Regions of India
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I haven’t had a huge amount of exposure to Indian cooking, but I have liked everything I’ve tried so far. 350 recipes? Yes, thank you! My daughters were thrilled to find Naan again (one of their all time favorite breads!), but I was very disappointed not to find Gulab Jamoon. I had this delectable dessert at an Indian festival in Texas of all places and fell in love. Unfortunately, I haven’t had them since. I was really hoping for a recipe for them in this book, but it didn’t happen. There are, however, some lovely desserts included, so all is not lost!

There is a nice section on common ingredients in the front of the book that explains about many of the ingredients you will find often in the recipes and is followed by Spices, Spice Blends and Herbs. Recipes are included for four of the spice blends, which is nice. Mail order sources are at the end of the book before the index.

The book is laid out according to type of dish (Appetizers, Chat, Beans and Lentils, Rice Cereal and Breads, Eggs Chicken and Meat, Fish and Seafood, Vegetables, Salads Raitas and Chutneys, Sweets and Beverages), but then each section is divided into regions and these are color coded: red for the Northern regions, orange for East, green for South and blue for West. This is particularly handy for finding dishes from certain regions.

This is a great book for people who love Indian cooking or just want to try something new. It’s easy to follow, so I would even recommend it to novice cooks.

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

January 10, 2015

Tamales by Alice Guadalupe Tapp

Tamales: Fast and Delicious Mexican Meals
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I've wanted to learn how to make tamales for ages, but never really had the opportunity, so when I saw this book I knew it was finally time to give it a try. I wanted some fairly simple flavors for my first attempt, and something that my kids would potentially like, so I settled on the Refried Beans and Chorizo Tamales. The masa was a little tricky to make and it never did float in cold water like the book said, so I just went with the thick, paste-like texture it called for and prayed it would work. Next came the filling. Oh, my!! I could just sit down with a bowl of the filling alone! Simple, but so delicious!

Now comes the fun part. I soaked the corn husks for the allotted time and set out to attempt my first tamale. The wrapping went much easier than I expected, but I did the simple fold over, so that could be part of it. Confession time--I didn't refrigerate it over night. I somehow missed that step until I had already made the masa and filling, and that was my plan for supper, so I went ahead with the steaming and hoped for the best.

Sooooo, the BEST is absolutely what I got!! Oh, my! These are amazing! I will definitely be making these again!

If you love tamales or just love Mexican food and want to try your hand at tamales, I highly 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.

Raw Energy in a Glas by Stephanie L. Tourles

Raw Energy in a Glass: 125 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well-Being
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons

This is a great little cookbook for anyone wanting to boost their health and/or energy. A lot of books like this rely heavily on bananas, and that is a problem for me. I get that bananas are very healthy, but I really dislike them. Thankfully, there are some great recipes here such as Tropical Berry Sunset Frappe (with citrus, strawberries, raspberries and mango), various yogurt drinks and protein shakes. This book is worth it for the first section alone! In "The Basics" if covers all kinds of information on juicing, blending, energy, getting the most out of your food and more. My favorite section is the Superfood Dictionary that breaks down exactly what is in each ingredient and what it is best for. It is divided into sections (Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts and more) which makes it easy to find what you're looking for.

This is a really great cookbook to get your new year started right. I'm not making big New Year's Resolutions to lose weight, exercise more etc., but I AM trying to get healthier this year. This book gives me a great start!

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

Best of Bridge Holiday Classics

Best of Bridge Holiday Classics: 225 Recipes for Special Occasions
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

Classic, nostalgic recipes fill this cookbook. The hardcover, spiral binding is a nice touch. Enjoy classics like Artichoke Dip, Green Goddess Salad, Poached Salmon, Christmas Cheese Balls, Shortbread, Ceasar Salad, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. Whether you are cooking for a Holiday Brunch, Cocktail Party, Buffet, Potluck, Sit-Down Dinner or just using up leftovers, you are sure to find something here. I used the Cranberry Muffin recipe substituting milk for the orange juice and Chopped strawberries for the cranberries. My kids demolished them! The cookbook ends with a section on Food Gifts. This is a lovely chapter of Candied Almonds, Spiced Pecans, Cranberry Pistachio Bark, Toffee, Marmalade, Chutney and more. The "Novel Nuts" were a huge hit at the family Christmas dinner!

This is a great, nostalgic cook that is great fun to read through and to cook from.

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

French Bistro by Maria Zihammou

French Bistro: Restaurant-Quality Recipes for Appetizers, Entrées, Desserts, and Drinks
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

With cold weather hanging around, what better time to curl up with a lovely cookbook and head off to a distant land. For this trip I chose France with the lovely "French Bistro" by Maria Zihammou. I could tell it was going to be special right off the bat. My husband LOVES olives, so the different types of marinated olives will be a big hit with him, and the Mushrooms with Garlic and Parsley are so scrumptious! You don't even need the crackers or bread--a fork works just fine! From there we moved to "In a Minute", quick recipes for busy times. "Minute Steak with French Herbs and Salad" is delightful and Mussels Three Ways will make me and one of my daughters extremely happy! (For some reason, only the two of us like mussels. Ah, well. It just means there's more for us!)

Now we move on to "From the Oven". Mmmm! Lemon-Roasted Whole Chicken is a favorite way of mine to roast chicken, though I sometimes use a combination of lemon and orange, and I like garlic with it, too. Oven Baked Pork Roast is definitely a keeper!

Rustic. Ah! The name says it all! Onion Soup, Chicken Stew with Clear Broth and Vegetables (my favorite way to have chicken soup!), Springtime Lamb Stew--can we just say, "Scrumptious!"?

A Marriage of Flavors offers classic French combinations such as Sole with Butter Sauce and Butter-Fried Capers (what's not to like in this marriage?!?), Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Apple and Rack of Lamb with Basil Sauce among others.

Okay, now we move on to Daring Flavors! I'm pretty sure I won't really be cooking from this section, but that's just me. Snails with Garlic and Parley, Sweetbreads with Madeira Sauce, Stew with Pork Loin Marinated in Red Wine (which didn't sound daring until I read that it's thickened with pig's blood!) aren't exactly my cup of tea.

Finally, we come to Sweets. Lemon Tart. Enough said. Probably one of my favorite desserts ever! Oh, my! Heaven on my taste buds! Creme Brulee--did she read my favorite desserts list when she put this book together?! There's more, but I haven't made it past my two favorites yet!

The books ends with Drinks, which doesn't do much for me as there's only three and they're all alcoholic. There is also menu suggestions at the end, which is nice.

This is a truly delightful book that I am happy to recommend. Some of the recipes aren't as clear as they could be, but I was able to manage just fine.

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

The Sushi Lover's Cookbook by Yumi Umemura

The Sushi Lover's Cookbook: Easy to Prepare Sushi for Every Occasion
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons

I will be honest up front and tell you that I am NOT a sushi lover. It may seem strange for me to review a cookbook on sushi, but I have a daughter that LOVES sushi! I wanted some sushi cookbooks to make a lovely birthday dinner for her next birthday. I was interested to see what I could find that she would love and the rest of us could at least eat and possibly even enjoy. This cookbook was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some interesting recipes such as Flower Rolls, Easy Smoked Salmon Sushi and more, and then there were some that, frankly, turned my stomach. As much as I don't care for sushi, if I have to eat it I at least want it to be fairly authentic. I couldn't believe that the Two-Cheese Tuna Salad Rolls are actually wrapped in American cheese!! Ew! As for Sushi Pizza, I think I'll pass.

There are some interesting recipes that I think will work fine for my daughter's birthday, but this cookbook over all did not impress me.

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

To Cook is to Love by John Verlinden

My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

My husband knows me well! My favorite Christmas gift this year was a beautiful 6 qt enameled cast iron Dutch oven I've been wanting for ages. Of course, then I HAD to find something wonderful to cook in it! I found the perfect thing in this lovely cookbook. Chicken Fricassee sounds so simple, but I had all the ingredients at hand, so I dove right in. The recipe is clear and easy to follow and was very easy to make. I wasn't sure how my kids would react, but I was excited to see how it turned out. Let's just say three of the four kids have BEGGED me to be sure and make this again often! The cumin adds that lovely, Latin flavor your normal chicken fricassee doesn't have, and I definitely plan on making this again!

My family and I spent a week in Miami a few years ago and had the fortune to eat at a Cuban restaurant. Our host family had to translate for us as they spoke no English, but the food was divine!! I've had a soft spot for Cuban food ever since and was thrilled to have a chance to review this cookbook. From plantain to flan, there is a lovely array of Cuban dishes with the added advantage of being made lighter and healthier. The book is seasoned with stories and photos, though not, unfortunately, of the dishes. That is my only issue with this book. I wish there were at least some photos of the finished dishes.

If you like Latin food at all, I highly recommend this cookbook. It is a joy to both read and cook from!

I received a copy of this book from Langdon St Press through Lisa Ekus Group for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

January 7, 2015

Do-Ahead Christmas by James Ramsden

Do-Ahead Christmas: How to Feed Friends and Family Without the Frenzy
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons

I realize it may seem funny to be reviewing a cookbook all about pre-cooking for Christmas, but I only received the book a couple of days before Christmas. Between holidays and a four day health crisis, I wasn't able to review it before.

I was really excited to get this book as I always end up rushed and frazzled when trying to cook a big meal for Christmas. It was a bit of a let down that the first thing in the book was a slew of alcoholic drinks with only a couple of non-alcoholic choices. (Just because I don't drink alcohol I can't have a nice variety of interesting drinks, too?) Things started looking up after getting into Chilli Nuts and Polenta Chips and a nice array of other finger foods. From there we moved into Christmas Eve and the book definitely showed its British roots! Not many people of my acquaintance eat pickled herring--I'm not even sure where I could buy herring! I actually have a leg of lamb in my freezer, so I'm looking forward to the Herb-Stuffed Leg of Lamb. I don't know if I can find the watercress it calls for in the sauce, but I'm going to give it a shot!

We move on to Christmas Day with a variety of interesting dishes from Gravlax on Rye Crispbread, Turkey three ways (my family brined it this year and it was wonderful!), Roast Goose (on my 'to make' list before I die!), Salmon en Croute with Hollandaise Sauce, Figgy Pudding with Brandy Butter (my girls would love this just for the name!), Christmas Trifle and more.

Now we have a whole section on sides. It starts with Roast Potatoes. I'm a newcomer to parboiling my potatoes before roasting, but it is so worth it!! Crispy, crunchy on the outside with a silky smooth inside. Sigh! I could eat a whole pan! There's four recipes for Brussels Sprouts, which is exciting for me. I've learned to love them and a couple of these are very new ideas for me. I can't wait to try them out! Stuffing, cranberry sauce and more vegetables follow.

Now we get to dessert!! Cake and Other Treats has everything from Fruit Cake to Stollen, Mince Pies, Panettone, Yule Log and more.

From sweets we move to Leftovers--interesting ways to use all those Christmas leftovers from Turkey Pho, to Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding among others.

We finish with Edible Presents. Eight recipes from Piccalilli to Chocolate Covered Orange Peel for friends and family.

This was a very enjoyable cookbook and, even though it didn't really come in time for me to use this year, I can definitely see myself turning to it during the next holiday season!

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