Monday, June 29, 2015

Going Gypsy

Going Gypsy by David and Veronica James is sort of a prequel to their blog, Gypsy Nester. If you've followed their blog, or even glanced at it, you know they're a couple living in an RV. How they got there is ... curious.

The book starts right about the point when the met, and follows through marriage, birth of children, raising of children, and booting children out of the nest.

And then they face the big decision: what to do after the kids are gone.

They knew couples who had no plans and no life after the kids were grown, so they made the decision to embark on something just for themselves. They wanted to bring back the life they had when they were single and their life wasn't wrapped around the kids.

So they sold their house, disposed of and dispensed with most of their possessions, and bought an RV. At first, they thought it might be a short adventure, but it turned into a lifestyle.

The couple takes turns writing, so you get different points of view, which works particularly well when they're talking about meeting each others' parents. In later years, they saw things more from a couples' perspective, so there were times when it didn't really matter who was writing.

And other times it did matter.

The book is at times hysterical and at other times poignant. There were times when I totally agreed with their decisions, and other times when I wanted to stamp my foot or talk them out of it. But it's their life, and they're living it and they're honest about it.

I think the folks who love this best will be those who follow the blog, but it will also be a hit with parents and those folks who like peeking into other people's lives.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I really expected the cookbook, Infuse, by Eric Prum and Josh Williams, to be a commitment. I've made a lot of long-term infusions of my own that have taken months to finish. So I expected to see a lot of those recipes in the book.

Instead, the book has quite a number of quick infusions that you make and use right away, short infusion that might be overnight or 24 hours, and then longer infusion from two to four weeks.

I thought it was really interesting that the book started with a spicy oil, followed by a pizza recipe for using the oil, followed by some vinegar-and-oil salad dressings.

I never really thought of salad dressings as infusions. I always considered them emulsions. But, if you're adding herbs and spices to the salad dressing, the flavor does infuse into the liquid. So, okay, I'm okay with calling them infusions.

What I thought was interesting were the quick alcohol-and-fruit infusions. These recipes required muddling or mashing the fruit in the alcohol, shaking, and straining. Then they're ready to be used. I've always let my fruits mingle with the alcohol for much longer. The peach bourbon infusion that took four weeks was more like what I've made before.

Water infusions - fruit water, refrigerator tea, and cold-brewed coffee - were pretty quick as well. Which is certainly normal for those.

So, if you want to dabble in infusing and you're not the patient type, you might really like this book. If you're looking for deep, complicated infusions that you start in the summer and use in the winter, you won't find those here. I think four weeks was the longest infusion, although I'll admit I haven't read all the recipes in the book.

Along with the recipes for making the infusions, there are some recipes for using the infusions, like the pizza that used the spicy oil, pancakes to go with a syrup recipe, and a few drink recipes. There's not a recipe for each infusion, but I don't think they're necessary. Some of them are intended to be used as is, and the others should be easy to find a use for.

Like photos? This book is very photo-heavy. Not only is there a photo for every recipe, but there are sometimes as many as three full-page photos between recipes, and a few times there were five full page photos in a row. The photos are nice, and some were informative in terms of ingredients, but it's a surprising number of photos compared to text.

The one thing I didn't like about this book - and it's certainly not the fault of the authors - is that the font used for the recipes is small, and it's blue-gray instead of black, and the lines that make up the letters are thin.

Fortunately there's a lot of white space - infusion recipes aren't all that complicated - so at least the text isn't crushed together. But I really wish they would have used some of that space to increase the font size by a point or two. And black text, please. With the slightly glossy paper, this was really hard to read.

While I like the idea of the book and I'll probably play around with some of the recipes, if I was paging through this in a bookstore I have to say that I'd probably pass, just because of the readability factor.

If you're thinking about buying it, I'd suggest looking at a copy first to see what you think of the text.

I received this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books, for the purpose of a review.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pimento Cheese the Cookbook #giveaway

The topic of  Pimento Cheese the Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness, is ... I'm sure you'll guess ... pimento cheese.

There are a whole lot of variations of pimento cheese recipes, but that's not all. There are recipes that have the flavor of pimento cheese, like the deviled egg recipe that you'll find on Cookistry.

There are also biscuits, waffles, chicken tenders, shrimp and grits, soup. cheesesteak sandwiches, and a whole lot more of pimento-y cheesey goodness.

One thing I really like about this book is that the recipes that incorporate the flavor of pimento cheese don't have you start by making one of the pimento cheese recipes. They include the amount of cheese, pimento, and other ingredients you need for that particular recipe.

And that means you won't have to make a tub of pimento cheese in order to use a portion of it in a recipe. Not that I couldn't find a use for a tub or three of pimento cheese.

This is a small book - in dimensions and pages. But that's fine. This isn't a topic that needs a lot of space, and 50 recipes is plenty - there's no fluff here, where you think the author tossed in a lame recipe or two, just to fill the pages. It's just the right size and has enough recipes to make or to inspire you to make something else.

How would you like a copy of your very own? Yup, I've got one to give away!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, who inexplicably sent a second copy; I will cover mailing costs to the winner.

Friday, June 5, 2015


The one word that comes to mind every time I browse through the cookbook Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall is "charming." Unlike many current books that have gorgeous photos, this one has drawings.

While I usually love photos in books, I thought that the drawings in this book were sufficient, and it also allowed for a simple way to diagram some of the processes used for some of the recipes.

Oh, and if you're wondering what the heck Fika means - it's a traditional Swedish twice-daily coffee break. While the book talks a bit about actual coffee (what kind of cup do YOU use?) it's really more about the foods that you serve with coffee - cookies, pastries, breads, cakes, sweets ... and more.

Most of the recipes require ingredients that should be easy to find - or that are probably already in your pantry - like flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. One of the most challenging items might be the raw hazelnuts, since toasted and roasted seem more common. But even those shouldn't be hard to hunt down.

Well, okay, maybe elderflowers might be harder to find. I have a feeling that's either something that grows like crazy where you are, or it's nowhere. But that's just one recipe, so it's not a dealbreaker if you can't find the flowers.

Recipe titles in the book include the Swedish names as well as American translations. I was particularly smitten with Kinuskikaka, a caramel cake that with almonds. I want to make it, just so I can attempt to say it. On the other hand, the cake recipe looks really good, so that's also a reason it's on the to-do list.

By the way, a lot of the recipes include nuts. Which is perfectly fine with me. And so far I found one recipe that uses nuts instead of flour, making the cake gluten-free.

Besides the drawings making this book quirky, the order of the recipes is also a little ... odd. It makes sense to the authors, I'm sure, but from a cooking point of view, I found it a little ... odd. There's a description of why the recipes are in the sections - some are iconic, some are more modern, some are good for traveling, and others are good for a celebration. But that didn't stop me from wishing that the cookies were in one chapter, cakes were in another, and so on.

Again, it's not a dealbreaker, just an oddity. If I really wanted to see just cookies, they're listed in the index. But from a browsing perspective, the flow didn't make as much sense to me as other books I've browsed.

As usual, I'm working my way through some recipes so I can share one with you on Cookistry later. I'm pretty sure you'll love it.