October 24, 2015

Le French Oven by Hillary Davis

Le French Oven
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


My husband, (who knows me so well!) bought me the perfect Christmas gift last year--a gorgeous, 6-qt enameled Dutch oven, or as they're called in this book, a French oven. I love it!! When I first heard about the cookbook called Le French Oven, I thought it was French food made in the oven. I was thrilled when I saw it was all about French/Dutch oven cooking!

This is a gorgeous book, with breathtaking photos of both food and France, that pulls you in and keeps the pages turning. The biggest issue was deciding what to cook first!! Due to various circumstances, I wasn't able to run to the store to pick up specific items, so that limited me somewhat. I had some sirloin steaks in the freezer, so I pulled them out and decided to tweak the "Beer-Braised Brisket" recipe to fit. I don't cook with beer, and I was out of cooking wine, so I ended up using broth instead. Now, I think it would have been a little better with cooking wine, but it was still an excellent dish that my family would be happy for me to make again! Even the 6-year-old had a second helping--and she doesn't normally with beef unless it's hamburgers or meatballs!

Simply Delicious Roasted Vegetables? Definitely a keeper. Lemon Lovers' Panna Cotta with Lemon Curd? Are you kidding?!? I think I just died and went to Heaven!! I'm currently out of fresh basil, but Homemade Basil Garlic Bread is next on my list--I refuse to compromise and used dried for this dish! Fondue Mac 'n' Cheese is a close second. I could go on and on on dishes I want to make from this book there are so many. That, to me, is the mark of a great cookbook. I've had beautiful cookbooks before that there were really only a few recipes I was interested in cooking, but this one I'd say easily 50-75% of the recipes I want to try.

This is a great cookbook that I would highly recommend to anyone. It's well made, beautiful, and filled with delightful recipes. What more can you ask of a cookbook?

I received a copy of this book from Gibbs-Smith, Publisher for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

October 20, 2015

Maple by Katie Webster

Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


I'm a busy home school mom of four--three of them in high school. While I love to cook, with this crazy life sometimes I get a bit lazy about some the little things in cooking--little touches that make the difference between a good dish and a great dish. This cookbook has just changed that. I was in the mood for something sweet, so I decided to try the Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Normally I wouldn't bother with toasting the walnuts, but I wanted to follow the recipe as completely as I could, so I toasted the walnuts in a pan before mixing the cookies. Wow! It's such a little thing, but between toasting the nuts and adding the maple syrup (I didn't have maple sugar, so I used regular sugar with a generous dollop of maple syrup), they were amazing!! They were a huge hit with my family and moved this cookbook to my "hang onto and cook from often" shelf.

You might think a cookbook on maple syrup would be just desserts, but there are plenty of savory dishes as well. I'm making Maple Glazed Carrots as a side dish with supper tonight. We love baked beans around here so the Sap Baked Beans are on my list to make soon as are the Maple Spiced Pecans. They will go well with our snacky supper we usually do for Thanksgiving night and Christmas Eve.

If you like maple syrup at all, this is a great cookbook for you! Some great history, how-to's for tapping your own sugar maples should you have any, a guide to grades of syrup and so forth just add to the cookbook. I highly recommend it!

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

Tacos by Alex Stupak

Tacos: Recipes and Provocations
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons


I love tacos. Frankly, I love tortillas, and just about anything you can do with them. I have fond memories of a missions trip to Mexico when I was a little girl and some of the local ladies fed us with fresh tortillas and frijoles, or living in a tiny village in Alaska and wanting tacos, so my dad and I made them from scratch. I was so excited to get this book and dive into real, authentic Mexican tacos. Ummm, not so much. There is some great recipes for basic tortillas and tacos, but there are far more recipes for.....interesting variations.

The book has a great beginning with sections on the Mexican pantry and types of chilis. From there it moves on to tortillas, including a recipe for making your own masa, before moving into what it calls neo-traditional tortillas. Beet, saffron, pistachio, buckwheat, chicken (yes, that's shredded chicken right in the dough) and more swim before you. From tortillas you move to salsas and then into tacos.

The salsa section is very full and fairly complete. It's great to browse through and find your favorite salsas to make yourself. The taco section, on the other hand left me wanting a good, authentic, classic Mexican taco. Cheeseburger, pastrami, pork rind tacos, tripe, fava and blood sausage, black bean hummus and more fill the pages with not a glimmer of a classic bean or ground meat taco anywhere to be found.

If you want a classic, authentic taco, good luck finding it here. If you like exotic food with odd combinations or just pushing the boundaries in food, this book is for you.

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

October 19, 2015

Fresh Made Simple by Lauren Keiper Stein

Fresh Made Simple: A Visual Recipe Guide to Light Meals & Snacks
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons 


This little book caught be by surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this! Cute graphics take the place of true recipes with general (if any) amounts and instructions. Amounts are often spoken of as "lots", "a bunch", "a squeeze", "a sprinkling", "a handful" and so forth. The title does say "Made Simple", but sometimes it seems to take it a bit to the extreme, such as the Pistachio Nut Mix. Raisins, Dried Cherries, Honey Roasted Sesame Sticks and Roasted, Unsalted & Shelled Pistachios. No amounts, just "Give a shake to mix." The Tomato Slices on pg 111 are very similar to what we do often around here, only we usually add oregano. Very easy and very delicious and the Black and White Bark is something my kids would love (minus the cranberries--none of them like cranberries!).

I would say that most people who are seasoned cooks might not be enthralled with this book, but I do think it has its place. It's perfect for children or very new cooks. It won't overwhelm them with long lists of ingredients (usually 5 or less per recipe) or long, involved instructions. Quick, simple, and pretty healthy recipes with colorful graphics will interest most kids. That alone makes it worth it.

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

October 7, 2015

From India by Kumar Mahadevan

From India: Food, Family & Tradition
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons 


May I just say that this is a beautiful book! The cover is blue padded fabric with a gorgeous design that you just want to drink in. Moving to the inside, it just keeps getting better. A feast for your eyes as well as your palate, "From India" is filled with mesmerizingly beautiful photos both of food, as well as what looks to be family heirlooms. "Vannakkam" means "welcome" in Tamil, and this book welcomes you into the Mahadevan kitchen and their lives. You are drawn in and part of you wants to drink in the beauty of the book, while the rest of you wants to run for the kitchen and start cooking!

I do recommend you pick up a few essential ingredients before you begin cooking out of this book. Items such as green cardamom, ghee, cumin seeds, curry leaves, chili powder (NOT the American version!) and more are used liberally throughout. Very few, if any, recipes can be made with pantry items on hand unless you keep Indian and/or Asian items readily available. Even a simple Pistachio Ice Cream calls for ground cardamom.

I would have to say, this is probably my favorite Indian cookbook I've reviewed to date. It is a feast for the senses, inside and out. The recipes are delectable, and easy to follow. If a particular recipe takes a long time or in especially complicated, the author notes that, which is very nice. It would be nice if the recipes had the approximate time needed to execute the dish. While not necessary, it is a help for anyone not used to cooking Indian food to have an idea of how much time they can expect the execution of that dish to take.

This really is an amazing book. Give it a try, and take a trip to India with your family tonight from your own kitchen. Happy cooking!

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

October 5, 2015

Paleo Italian Cooking by Cindy Barbieri

Paleo Italian Cooking: Authentic Italian Gluten-Free Family Recipes
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons 


Much of true Italian cooking is innately healthy, but this book takes it a step further to gluten free. Now, I don't have a problem with gluten, but I like to have recipes that I can make for friends that are allergic or have celiac disease. This book is perfect for that.

Paleo Italian Cooking begins with articles and information including The Paleo Italian Lifestyle, The Seasons and Savors of Italy, Cooking Methods and Tips and more. From there you move to basic recipes: Italian Pickled Vegetables, Chicken Broth and Veal Stock. From Basic Recipes you move to Sauces & Condiments, Appetizers & Salads, Brunch, Tuscan Favorites, Soups, Stews & Chili, Meat & Poultry Main Courses, Seafood Main Courses, For Pasta Lovers, Side Dishes and end with Desserts.

There are plenty of old favorites in here. Chicken Scalloppine in Lemon-Caper Sauce is a definite favorite in my family. We love the clean, crisp flavors, and it's so easy to make! Likewise, the Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Thyme is truly delicious. Lemon and capers are paired often in Italian cuisine, and it's a great match with the chicken or fish among other things. You won't miss pasta so much after trying the Spaghetti Squash with a Chicken Ragu. The Roasted Carrots & Butternut Squash make a delectable side dish. I haven't made it to the desserts yet, but I can't wait to make the Custard Pie with Pine Nuts and Almonds...or any of the other desserts! They all look amazing.

The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and most--if not all--of the recipes have a beautiful picture so you can see what the end result should be. While having photos for each dish is not make or break when it comes to buying a cookbook for me, it definitely helps make the decision easier!

This is a great cookbook. I am happy to highly recommend it, not only to those who have to eat gluten-free or are living a paleo lifestyle, but to anyone who truly loves Italian cuisine. Now, who wants some Pistachio-Almond Biscotti? I think I'll go make some right now!

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