December 29, 2015

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen by Linda Maria Steele

My rating: 3 of 5 spoons


I love New England, and I absolutely adore seafood. I couldn’t wait to get into this cookbook. You’d think I’d dive right into a great seafood dish, but that didn’t happen. I received the book a day or two before my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday. She doesn’t care for cake, but she loves cheesecake, so I had given her the option this year of either buying her a classic New York Cheesecake, or we could make one together. She opted for the two of us to make one and this cookbook happened to have a recipe for Fancy New York Cheesecake. It had to stay in the oven longer than the recipe called for, but the results were more than worth it. It was amazing!! She’s already asked that we make it again next year for her birthday. Actually, I think it was more along the lines of every year until she leaves home!

So, surely the seafood came next! Nope. Though it was calling my name, it was time for holiday baking. With multiple neighbors to make plates of baked goods for, we had to get hopping. While browsing this book, I ran across the Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies. Ahhh! Hazelnuts are my favorite nut…well, they probably tie with pistachios. I knew I had to try them. These little gems are keepers!! Everyone who tried them loved them. It’s just going to make it that much harder on me that hazelnuts are only available around the holidays here. Sigh!

We also made the Dr. T’s Date & Bacon Appetizer, though we stuffed some of them with a whole almond, and some with a small stick of Asiago cheese. They are so delicious!

Okay, I’m going to make some seafood!! I decided to go with a classic…clam chowder. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill here. If you are a novice cook or have never made clam chowder before, I do NOT recommend you starting with this recipe! I don’t know if she was assuming people had made it before and so everything didn’t have to be listed or stated, but ingredients and steps in the recipe were just completely missing!! I had to posit from common sense and past experience to get a decent pot out of this. It didn’t end there. The more I looked through the book, the more issues I found. The picture for the Seafood Fettuccini (which is also one of the photos on the front cover) doesn’t match the recipe. It looks like the fish is coated with something, but there is nothing in the recipe about coating the fish. In fact, the directions for cooking the fish itself are fairly vague. It also shows chopped tomatoes in the photo, but they are nowhere in the recipe or ingredient list.

While this cookbook was not exactly everything I had hoped for, it is still a pretty good cookbook. It’s worth it for the cheesecake and Hazelnut Shortbread Cookie recipes!!

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

French Country Cooking by Francoise Branget

French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons


French Country Cooking is such an interesting cookbook. It's divided by region, not by recipe type, so if you're looking for something specific, the index is your friend. The recipes reflect the "country" aspect with recipes such as Lamb's Feet and Stomach Parcels (which has two recipes from two different regions), Beef Stew in Beer, Boulogne Fisherman's Chowder, and Alsation One-Pot Baked Dinner where the ingredients (which include pigs feet and tails) are sealed into the earthenware casserole by a layer of dough around the rim which seals it well. You can also find more decadent recipes such as Fondue in a Fourme de Montbrison which is a fondue made from and in a whole 4 lb wheel of Fourme de Montbrison cheese, Gratin of White Asparagus or Filet Mignon with Brie.

I've heard of Breton Apple Cake and couldn't wait to try it. Unfortunately, it did NOT turn out well at all. It had to cook nearly twice as long as called for, and the texture was...interesting. I read the recipe repeatedly to make sure I had not missed any ingredients or steps, but I followed it perfectly. The Gougeres (Cheese Puffs), however, were amazing!! They were a huge hit with the entire family and they are clamoring for me to make them again soon!

There is much to love in this book, and some things that are interesting but will never be cooked. The fact that they're at least interesting, though, says much about the book. If you're looking for classic, French country cooking, I think this could be a good book for you.

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

Hartwood by Eric Werner & Mya Henry

Hartwood: Between the Land and the Sea
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons


Hartwood is as much a work of art as a cookbook. From the cover, all through the pages (about 300 of them!) the absolutely gorgeous photography draws you in. This is a book you can enjoy just curling up in a comfy chair and immerse yourself in. At some point, however, you want to start cooking. That is a little harder. Many ingredients are used that if you don't have access to a well-stocked Latin American grocery could be a little harder to find, and there are no substitutions given. That said, there is so much in this book! Lots of information on building flavors, chiles, fruits, drying herbs and more start you off on the right foot, before heading into chapters titled The Larder, The Market, The Sea, The Land, Desserts, and Drinks.

Ultimately, Hartwood is a cookbook about a restaurant. These are the dishes you would eat there, and they've given you the gift to try to re-create them in your own home. That is quite a gift. If you've ever been to Hartwood, or if you long for the flavors of the Yucatan, this is definitely the book for you. If you want an armchair trip, this is not a bad choice, either. Give it a try!

Slow Fires by Justin Smillie

Slow Fires: Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast, and Grill
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons


I love to grill. I also love slow braised and roasted meats, and this book beautifully covers it all with some great foundations and finishes to boot. The title says a lot about this book. Do not expect to pop in the kitchen and deliver an amazing meal in an hour. This is all about SLOW that may be fairly simple, but they take time. For example, Seared Bay Scallops with Bagna Cauda and Vegetables may sound like a quick, easy dish, but you have to refrigerate the scallops, uncovered, for 3 hours, roast the sunchokes for about half an hour, make the bagna get the idea. However, the results speak for themselves.

I like that there is a nice mix of everyday ingredients that most are familiar with as well as a few that you might have to go searching for. However, that just piques the interest and encourages you to go on a little food adventure.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book for absolute beginners. The directions are clear, but the sheer volume of work for many of the recipes could intimidate the novice cook. However, if you've been cooking awhile, I think this would be a great book for you.

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

December 15, 2015

Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex by Cappy Lawton

Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


Everything you ever wanted to know about enchiladas! From Mayan and Aztec, all the way to Tex-Mex, it's all covered here. Classic recipes, history, information about the various ingredients and more fill the pages of this delightful cookbook. It's sorted by main ingredient such as Pork, Beef, Cheese, Vegetable and more ending with Tex-Mex. The instructions are clear and easy to follow.

This is a gorgeous, heavy, well-made book. It would have benefited from more photos of the finished dishes, but it's still a wonderful book! Why not try some authentic enchiladas to surprise and delight your family with?

I won a copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

New Orleans' Best Seafood Restaurants by Ann Benoit

My rating: 4 of 5 spoons


Do you love seafood? Are you heading to...or missing the flavors of...New Orleans? If so, this is a great cookbook for you! Each two page spread covers one restaurant with a bit about the restaurant, where it's located and a recipe for a dish there. The photos make you want to dive in and start eating!

Try the Trout Supreme from Sapphire, or the Seasonal Boiled Seafood Special from Pier 424 Seafood Market Restaurant or Seared Scallops in Beurre Blanc from Keith Young's. It's not too far to the Super Bowl, so why not try the Crawfish Nachos from Deanie's Seafood? There's even recipes with alligator and turtle!

This is such a fun cookbook. You're sure to find something you like whether it's a more upscale Flounder Crudo, or a down-home Crab Boil or Gumbo.

I received an F&G of this book from Pelican Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur

Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step: Secret Formulas with Photos for Duplicating Your Favorite Famous Foods at Home
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons


I've used Todd Wilbur's cookbooks before, so I couldn't wait to get hold of this one. There was only one problem...I could barely pry it out of my teenage daughters' hands!! I love that this edition has step by step photography instead of little sketches. A lot of these recipes I would feel totally comfortable turning them over to my daughters to cook as the recipes are so easy to understand and follow.

I've seen fairly ridiculous prices for a small box of mix to make Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits, but you can make them here quickly and easily...and pretty cheaply! Make your own Olive Garden salad with dressing (this dressing is sooo good!!), or KFC's Grilled Chicken! Who wouldn't want to be able to make their own Cracker Barrel Chicken Fried Steak or Chili's Grilled Baby Back Ribs? All these and so many more are found in the pages of this delightful book.

Some of the recipes do require specialty items such as liquid nitrogen for Dippin' Dots or a special pan to make Twinkies or a special cutter for curly fries, but most are made with items many people typically have or are easily accessible.

This is a fun cookbook. Instead of going out to eat, why not get together as a family and make some of your favorite "eat out" foods at home!

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

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Uhl

The Art and Craft of Tea: An Enthusiast's Guide to Selecting, Brewing, and Serving Exquisite Tea
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


The author clearly is passionate about tea, and it really shows in this lovely book. Everything you need to know about tea from the history of tea, to selecting, brewing and serving tea is covered here. Beautiful photography fills the pages and draws you into the warmth of tea.

Whether you want to learn about your favorite kind of tea, or you just desire a thorough education on tea, you can find it here. Growing regions, cultivating, processing, the chemistry of tea and more are found in the pages of this jewel.

Do you crave a classic English 'cuppa', a rich cup of Russian tea, a Persian Rose tea, or an Indian spiced tea? All these and more are covered here. There are delightful recipes in the back of the book for such delicacies as Cinnamon Cream Tea, Basil Peach Tea, classic Iced/Sun Tea and more.

Though this could be considered a reference book more than a cookbook, it's really much more. I highly recommend this for tea lovers everywhere.

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

Per La Famiglia by Emily Richards

My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


Mamma Mia!! What a delightful book! "For the Family" encapsulates how and why I cook, and this book is filled with the delicious food I love to prepare for my family.

Every Italian cookbook has their own Homemade Tomato Sauce recipe and, for me, how that turns out says a lot about how I'll feel about the rest of the cookbook. The Homemade Tomato Sauce is easy and delicious. It just takes a few minutes to get the ingredients going on the stove where it simmers on its own while you do other things. It was a huge hit with my family as well as at the church potluck. I've made two batches so far and both turned out delicious. I will be making this often!

I have made multiple trips to Sicily, and one of the things I would bring back for my kids were Amaretti--little crunchy almond-flavored cookies. I was thrilled to see a recipe for them! They are not the same color or quite the same texture (the ones we brought back were crunchy all the way through while the inside of these are soft), but the flavor is the same. They are amazing!! Once again, these were a huge hit at the church potluck with multiple women asking for the recipe. They are so quick and easy to make as well! These are going on my Christmas cooking list this year!!

From a simple Spaghetti Carbonara to Prosciutto and Ricotta Chicken Roll Ups, Cassata Sicilian and a version of my beloved Arancini, this cookbook is filled with lovely photos and delightful recipes. It includes menus for family celebrations, special chapters on Christmas and Easter along with all the normal chapters such as Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies.

I love this cookbook. It easily won its way to my favorites shelf and I know I will cook from it often. I highly recommend it to everyone!

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

December 7, 2015

Crossroads by Tal Ronnen

Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


I am not a vegan, but this is a gorgeous cookbook!! I would feel very comfortable cooking for a vegan using these recipes, and many I would enjoy on my own. Bloomsdale Salad with Black Garlic Vinaigrette, beautiful breads, Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms with Shallots and Toasted Almonds (oh, my!), Summer Berry Galette...where do you begin?!

There are gorgeous pasta recipes which are great cooked according to the recipe, but can be made for meat lovers by switching out ingredients such as a regular sausage for the vegan sausage in the Bolognese sauce. Salads, flatbreads, desserts and more fill this delightful book.

The book itself is a work of art. It is beautifully bound with gorgeous photos abounding throughout calling out to you to get in the kitchen and start cooking. So, what are you waiting for?!

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

December 5, 2015

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


Oh, my! I am a complete bread addict, and I love to bake. This book is just perfection for me. The chapters move seamlessly from Primordial Bread: Unleavened Flatbreads to Slightly Elevated: Leavened Flatbreads, Masa y Mas: Tortillas and More, The Dark, Crusty Loaf: Lean Bread and Rolls, Challah and Beyond: Enriched Breads, Rolls and Buns, Filled Doughs From Around the World, Short and Sweet: Quick Breads and Holiday Breads and Waste Not: What to Do With Leftover Bread.

The cover of the book just grabbed me immediately with the gorgeous photo of Nan-e Barbari bread, and that's exactly what I made first. The scent of the bread wafting through the house nearly drove us nuts for the 18 minutes it was in the oven, and the flavor is absolutely amazing!! It is a leavened flatbread, and was so easy to make. I'm sure I'll be making it again.

I love that it's not JUST bread recipes, but things to do with the bread (and not just in the Waste Not chapter) such as Monkey Bread using leftover Challah dough, Roast Pork Belly Bahn Mi With "The Works" using the Bahn Mi Baguettes and more.

I only see one problem with this book, and that's deciding which recipe to use next! Well, the only other issue is how many pounds am I going to put on because of this book! Seriously, this is an amazing book that I cannot recommend highly enough. It has definitely found its way to my favorites shelf!

I received a copy of this book from Clarkson Potter Publishers through the Blogging for Books Program for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Slow Cooker Desserts by Roxanne Wyss

Slow Cooker Desserts: Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious!
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons


As a stay-at-home, homeschool mom I absolute love my slow cooker!! I use it often, and I was really excited to get this book. I have to be honest. I was a little disappointed, though. It starts promisingly with cheesecakes and cakes. Ah, but there's a catch! These all use a 7-inch springform pan in a 5 qt or larger slow cooker. I know you can make cakes straight in the slow cooker--I have done it before. It was just a disappointment that NONE of the cake recipes are made outside of a springform pan.

Pushing down my disappointment, I made the Warm Brownie Pudding. A self-saucing, fudgy brownie...what's not to love?! It was okay. It wasn't bad, but it didn't wow me.

Apple Butter is great made in a slow cooker, but be aware if you don't like yours super sweet, you might want to cut down on the sugar. They call for a combination of Granny Smith and Jonathan, and you definitely need some sugar with Granny Smith apples, but 1 1/3 c brown sugar is a bit much. I, personally, like to use a sweeter apple and not even add sugar, or just add a bit of fruit juice.

The fruit crisps are sure winners. Luscious, dripping with fruity goodness, they are sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Chocolate Cashew Clusters are a no brainer. Who wouldn't love these?! Yum!! I need to try the Crispy Peanut Butter Candy for my kids. I'm sure they'd love it as well.

There are some great hits and a few misses in this book. If you're a die-hard slow cooker fan, this book is definitely for you. If you want cakes, though, you'll have to find a 7-inch springform pan, or re-work some of the recipes to go straight in the cooker. Happy Cooking!

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

Blue Ribbon Baking by Linda Amend

Blue Ribbon Baking
My rating: 4 of 5 spoons


I love to bake, and now I'm trying to pass that on to my kids. What's not to love about blue ribbon baking recipes?

I started with the Cheese Bread. I wanted something quick for supper, and we all love cheese, so it seemed perfect. There was only one problem. I probably should have made two loaves!! It was excellent. The crumb texture was so nice as it is in quick breads, and when your butter melted into the warm slices it just became a little bit of heaven!

The cookies are a nice selection of classics. The Fudgy Mocha Cookies are a delight! There are brownies and bars galore, cakes for any taste, frostings and fillings (including my all-time favorite, lemon curd!), pies of all kinds, quick breads, muffins, yeast breads and pastries. The only problem is so many choices, so little time!

This is a great cookbook, especially for beginning bakers that need clear instructions and tried-and-true recipes. The instructions are easy to read and understand. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am happy to recommend it.

I received an F&G ("folded and gathered", unbound pre-print) from Pelican Publishing for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Celebrating the Foods of New Mexico by Susan D. Curtis

Santa Fe School of Cooking: Celebrating the Foods of New Mexico
My rating: 5 of 5 spoons


Classic Southwest cuisine at its best. This book made me want to visit New Mexico as soon as possible!! My daughters and I could just sit and make a meal of the homemade flour tortillas...they're that good! I need to get a tortilla press as I really want to try the corn tortillas, as well.

I grew up on the Southern version of chicken enchiladas--cream of chicken and cream of celery soup formed the base of the sauce. Now, I knew this wasn't authentic, but it's what I'd had and what I had been taught to make. It wasn't something we had very often and there were so very many new things to try that I hadn't gotten around to getting a good, southwest recipe. Well, look no further! The Green Chile and Chicken Enchiladas in this lovely book are amazing!! I made the homemade green chile sauce from the recipe in the book, though I used store bought corn tortillas (see above). I was a little concerned when putting it together as there didn't seem to be a lot of sauce for the amount of tortillas and chicken. No worries. It was perfection! My youngest can't handle spice of any kind, so I made her something else (this is NOT a hot dish, but green chiles of any kind get to her), but everyone else in the family absolutely loved it. This recipe alone puts this book on my favorites shelf!! Don't limit yourself, though. There are so many more lovely recipes to cook! I really want to try the Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, Lamb-Stuffed Green Chiles with Fresh Tomato Puree, Glazed Shrimp and Chorizo Skewers....I could go on and on.

From your basic tortillas to salsas & sauces, salads, tamales, desserts and more, there is definitely something for about everyone here. Not every recipe has a photo by any means, but the photos that are included are very nice. There's a great little section in the beginning on the history of the Santa Fe Cooking School as well. Give it a try. It's a great cookbook that I'm delighted to recommend!

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